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HIMSS Co-Leads Letter to DEA Urging Timely Action on Proposed Rule to Support Remote Prescribing of Controlled Substances

HIMSS co-led a stakeholder letter April 2 urging the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to expeditiously issue a revised proposed rule on the prescribing of controlled substances through telehealth as soon as possible.

The stakeholder letter, also co-led by the Alliance for Connected Care, the American Telemedicine Association and ATA Action, the Consumer Technology Association and the Partnership to Advance Virtual Care, was signed by 214 stakeholders.

The current flexibilities allowing for the remote prescribing of controlled substances, which were implemented in response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), are set to expire at the end of this year. Without regulatory action, these flexibilities will end and patients and providers risk experiencing significant lapses in care.

The letter urged DEA to release the updated proposed rules as soon as possible for the following reasons:

  • Ensure stakeholders have adequate time to provide feedback on any policy proposal.
  • If DEA were to create a special registration process for telehealth prescribers, as proposed by DEA and many stakeholders, substantial operational lead-time would be needed to implement the new process and comply with other potential operational requirements and guardrails.
  • A rulemaking late in the year that makes significant policy changes would affect the ability of patients and clinicians to make appointments and ensure consistent access to care.
  • There will be operational staff training needs for pharmacies and other parts of the healthcare delivery system to ensure patients uninterrupted access to needed medical treatments offered through telehealth.
  • DEA’s national leadership is needed to set a clear path forward for the nation and to encourage more consistent definitions and aligned requirements from state regulatory bodies — to encourage care in our most underserved areas, without geographic barriers limiting access to care.

Prior the expiration of the PHE in May 2023, the DEA initially released proposed rules that were met with switch public backlash — over 38,000 public comments — and had to temporarily extend the PHE flexibilities through Nov. 11, 2023.

The DEA followed that temporary extension by further extending the full set of telemedicine flexibilities through Dec. 31, 2024, coinciding with the expiration of the Medicare telehealth PHE flexibilities.

While the DEA works to develop new proposed rules that will make permanent changes to the prescribing of controlled medications, continuing the PHE flexibilities will help ensure a smooth transition for patients and practitioners that have come to rely on telemedicine.

HIMSS and the 214 co-signers are urging the DEA to release these proposed rules as soon as possible to ensure the voices or patients and providers are heard and avoid any unnecessary and harmful disruption to patients accessing the care they need through telemedicine.