Updated: Oct 16
Controlled substances like Adderall will be allowed to be prescribed online into late 2024, U.S. health and drug officials said, reversing their earlier position that drug restrictions would be reinstated as the pandemic eased.
Healthcare providers can prescribe controlled substances online through Nov. 11, according to an advance copy of a rule posted online Tuesday. In addition, practitioners who establish relationships with patients on or before that date can continue to prescribe controlled substances for an additional year.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, which regulates medications with potential for abuse, had planned to curtail drug access through telehealth. Remote prescribing was made more available at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic as a result of lockdowns that made doctors’ office visits less accessible. But after significant pushback, the agency changed its mind and decided to keep the existing, relaxed policies in place for now.
“We recognize the importance of telemedicine in providing Americans with access to needed medications, and we have decided to extend the current flexibilities for six months while we work to find a way forward to give Americans that access with appropriate safeguards,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement. The rule was issued jointly with the Health and Human Services Department.
Before the pandemic, controlled substances could only be prescribed online for patients who had previously gone to an in-person appointment with the same provider. The DEA waived that requirement as the pandemic shuttered doctors’ offices and clinics, making it easier for people with anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and opioid use disorder to get medications that previously required many time-consuming, in-person appointments.
Relaxed regulations also led to the development of online companies that connected patients with providers to get these prescriptions. Some businesses have been scrutinized by the federal government over their prescribing practices.
Easier access to controlled substances was seen as a temporary pandemic measure. But some medical and business organizations said the policy change made it easier to take care of patients and therefore should become the new status quo.
The American Psychological Association and the American Telemedicine Association think the current flexibilities should become permanent, representatives said after the DEA rule was released Tuesday.
“We’re hopeful there will be no imposition of inflexible, blanket, in-person requirements,” said Kyle Zebley, senior vice president of public policy at the ATA, said in an interview.