Last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officially missed its deadline to submit its plans to Congress on how it will execute a special registration process that would allow providers to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine. The directive from Congress was passed in last year’s SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act and was aimed at combatting the opioid crisis by increasing access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT). DEA was given one year from the signing of that law to create and release its plan to initiate this special registration process. While the agency admits it missed the deadline, no plans have yet been announced to comply with the law and finalize the special registration process.
The Special Registration processes aims to address the unintentional consequences of the 2008 Ryan Haight Act, which limits the prescription of controlled substances via telemedicine. Current regulations require that both the telemedicine prescriber and the location the patient receives the prescription be certified and registered with the DEA. The enforcement of this requirement has become a barrier to some clinics in select states as they may not meet the narrow requirements for registration with the DEA, and thus cannot provide people with necessary medications to treat their addictions via telemedicine.
The DEA is still working on its proposal to create a special registration process for providers. Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) noted earlier this week in POLITICO that there will be more opportunities to strengthen the SUPPORT Act and telemedicine in the future. He specifically made reference to a National Council-led priority, the Improving Access to Remote Behavioral Health Treatment Act of 2019 (H.R. 4131), which would allow some addiction treatment and community mental health centers to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine. The National Council will continue monitoring the agency’s progress and will report any changes in Capitol Connector.