(CNN) — The Biden administration has proposed new rules that will require patients to have an in-person medical evaluation before being prescribed most prescription medications by their doctors, with limited exceptions, according to a statement released on Friday.
Under the new rule proposals from the Drug Enforcement Agency, patients would still be able to get less-addictive medications, such as antibiotics or birth control, prescribed to them by their doctors via telehealth.
Prescriptions for other drugs — to help with pain or sleep, for example — could be prescribed via telehealth but a patient would need an in-person evaluation before obtaining a refill. Schedule II medications, a classification reserved for the strongest drugs, necessitate an in-person appointment before any prescription can be written.
When Covid-19 struck, federal regulators relaxed previous rules mandating that doctors evaluate patients in person before prescribing any controlled substances, allowing telehealth appointments to be used by patients to obtain needed prescription medications. With the federal Covid-19 public health emergency set to end in May, this proposal would establish a permanent regulatory framework for doctors prescribing medications via telehealth to patients.
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in the release that her agency “is committed to the expansion of telemedicine with guardrails that prevent the online overprescribing of controlled medications that can cause harm.”
Drug-related deaths in the United States reached record levels during the pandemic, with over 110,000 Americans dying of drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending in March 2022, although that has slowed slightly since. As of July 2022, drug overdose deaths were up 25% over two years prior and more than 50% higher than five years ago.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra highlighted the proposed change’s continued flexibility when it comes to buprenorphine, which is used to treat opioid use disorder, saying in the Friday statement that “improved access to mental health and substance use disorder services through expanded telemedicine flexibilities will save lives.”
Becerra also acknowledged the difficulty rural Americans face in accessing health care, noting, “We still have millions of Americans, particularly those living in rural communities, who face difficulties accessing a doctor or health care provider in-person. At HHS, we are committed to working with our federal partners and stakeholders to advance proven technologies and lifesaving care for the benefit of all Americans.”
The Associated Press reported earlier on the proposed rule changes.
(Copyright (c) 2022 CNN. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)