US agency to reverse Covid-19 policy for frequently abused prescription drugs | US news

The US Drug Enforcement Administration has proposed rules that would again require patients to visit doctors in-person to obtain prescriptions for certain medications that are frequently abused.

The announcement seeks to reverse policy changes made during the Covid-19 pandemic which allowed doctors to prescribe controlled drugs such as Adderall and OxyContin through virtual tele-health appointments.

On Friday, the DEA said that patients would be required to physically visit a doctor at least once in order to get a prescription on drugs that have been categorized as schedule II substances by the government. Those substances, which the government says have a “high potential for abuse”, include Adderall, OxyContin, Vicodin and Ritalin.

The proposed rules are on track to affect thousands of Americans who have relied on tele-health services throughout the pandemic in order to more easily access their medications. But they do not affect tele-health appointments which do not require doctors to prescribe controlled medications.

They also do not affect consultations by doctors who have previously conducted an in-person medical examination of a patient.

“The DEA is committed to ensuring that all Americans can access needed medications,” agency administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement.

She added: “The permanent expansion of telemedicine flexibilities would continue greater access to care for patients across the country, while ensuring the safety of patients. The DEA is committed to the expansion of telemedicine with guardrails that prevent the online overprescribing of controlled medications that can cause harm.”

The proposed rules would also allow doctors to prescribe a 30-day supply of buprenorphine through tele-health appointments to treat opioid use disorder.

“Medication for opioid use disorder helps those who are fighting to overcome substance use disorder by helping people achieve and sustain recovery, and also prevent drug poisonings,” Milgram said. She added: “The telemedicine regulations would continue to expand access to buprenorphine for patients with opioid use disorder.”

The DEA plans to implement the proposed rules prior to the expiration of the federal Covid-19 public health emergency declaration on 11 May.

Despite the convenience of tele-health services, some critics argue that their expansion has allowed for certain companies to take advantage of the flexibility and in turn prescribe unnecessary medications.

“Both sides of this tension have really good points,” a drug historian at the University of Buffalo, David Herzberg, told the Associated Press.

“You don’t want barriers in the way of getting people prescriptions they need. But anytime you remove those barriers it’s also an opportunity for profit seekers to exploit the lax rules and sell the medicines to people who may not need them.”

Additionally, the DEA’s announcement comes amid a still raging opioid overdose crisis across the country which has in recent years been fueled by illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. And it arrives as patients have reported problems filling nearly every type of ADHD medication prescription for reasons that haven’t been clear.

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