Making medication more accessible through telemedicine

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During the Covid public health emergency, the federal government took several steps to make it easier to access health care via telemedicine. Most of those measures have ended. But one of the regulations that Biden held in place allows many controlled substances like Adderall for ADHD treatment, testosterone for gender-affirming care and buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder to be prescribed without first having an in-person visit. In-person-visit requirements have traditionally been used to prevent fraud and abuse.

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Article Contents

The move

Ahead of the emergency’s end in May, the Drug Enforcement Administration proposed requiring that patients see a doctor in person after an initial 30-day supply of medication obtained virtually for buprenorphine, testosterone and ketamine for depression, and requiring in-person visits for Adderall to be prescribed. That sparked a firestorm of criticism from treatment advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The DEA has now extended the eased prescribing rules through the end of 2024. It plans to issue final regulations this year.

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The impact

Treatment advocates say that prescribing addiction treatments via telehealth offers improved access to care, especially for hard-to-reach patients like those with opioid addiction, and removes barriers associated with travel. After several years, many patients have become accustomed to receiving such care virtually. But some startups have drawn DEA scrutiny after allegedly overprescribing powerful stimulants like Adderall.

The upshot

Telehealth has become a booming industry since the pandemic, with telehealth usage about 30 times higher than before the pandemic. The DEA says it hopes to balance expanding access to treatment with avoiding misuse.



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