• Telehealth-controlled Substance Rx Flexibilities Extended

    Final Rule Answers AAFP Advocacy

    (Editor’s note: The administration has extended telehealth flexibility for prescribing controlled substances through Dec. 31, 2024. This story, originally published on May 10 after an earlier extension was announced, was updated on Oct. 10 when the further extension was published in the Federal Register.)

    Oct. 10, 2023, News Staff — The Academy’s push for regulatory clarity and stability beyond the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency is visible in a new rule that further extends all PHE-related telehealth flexibilities for prescribing controlled substances. The new extension, which runs through Dec. 31, 2024, includes prescribing buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

    The rule — published May 10 by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — also introduces a grace period for practitioner-patient telemedicine relationships established on or before Dec. 31, 2023. The DEA intends to issue new permanent standards or safeguards by fall 2024.

    Ahead of this fast-tracked update, the DEA said it had received “a record 38,000 comments on its proposed telemedicine rules.” Among these comments: extensive guidance the Academy sent regulators on balancing equitable access to care while protecting patient safety. In issuing the temporary extension, the DEA echoed the AAFP by saying that the extension was vital to ensuring continuity of care and preventing an overwhelming number of in-person appointment requests.

    The Academy this spring shared detailed feedback on two other proposed rules that would permanently govern telehealth prescribing when a clinician has not completed an in-person exam. Final versions of these rules are expected later this year.  

    The Academy last month offered detailed testimony to the DEA supporting these flexibilities.