Bipartisan bill improves access to treatment via telemedicine
Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA) introduced legislation to increase access to treatment for those suffering from opioid and other addictions.
Currently, federal law prohibits a medical practitioner from dispensing controlled substances through the internet without first evaluating the patient in-person. This legislation, the Special Registration for Telemedicine Clarification Act, instructs the Attorney General to take the necessary steps to allow for the prescription of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other controlled substances via telemedicine. It requires a special registration to connect patients with the treatment they need without risking important safeguards to prevent misuse or diversion.
“The opioid epidemic has claimed too many lives across our nation, and I am told time and time again that access to treatment remains one of the largest barriers to recovery in small towns and rural communities across America,”Congresswoman Bustos said. “This is why I’m proud to help introduce the Special Registration for Telemedicine Clarification Act, which will help bring more treatment options to underserved communities through telemedicine. Saving our sons and daughters from the opioid epidemic is a bipartisan priority and we’re all committed to addressing this crisis as quickly and effectively as possible.”
“Millions of Americans across the country are currently addicted to opioids and we’re losing 115 people every day,” said Congressman Carter. “No community is safe, especially rural communities where many do not have access to the treatment they need in close proximity. I am proud to introduce this legislation today to ensure those who do not have access to an in-person specialist are able to get the help they need through telemedicine without risking important safeguards to prevent misuse. As the only pharmacist in Congress, I believe we must use every tool available to combat the opioid crisis. Telemedicine technology has evolved tremendously and it should absolutely be used in this fight.”
“The National Council for Behavioral Health is pleased to support Representatives Carter and Bustos’ legislation requiring the Drug Enforcement Administration to issue a special registration process for practitioners of telemedicine,”said National Council for Behavioral Health President and CEO, Linda Rosenberg. “Due to a gap in federal law, legitimate practitioners like community addiction and mental health treatment clinics have been blocked from obtaining DEA registration that would allow them to prescribe lifesaving medications to patients with addition or mental illness via telemedicine. A special registration process can be used to permit these clinics and other treatment providers to be registered and overseen by DEA.”
In 2008, Congress strengthened prohibitions against distributing and dispensing controlled substances by passing the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 110-425). The Ryan Haight Act made it illegal for a practitioner to dispense controlled substances through the internet without at least one in-person patient evaluation. The legislation included the ability for the Attorney General to issue a special registration to health care providers to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine in legitimate emergency situations, such as a lack of access to an in-person specialist. However, the waiver process has never been implemented through regulation, and thus some patients still do not have the emergency access to care they need.
The Special Registration for Telemedicine Clarification Act, introduced by Bustos and Carter today, will allow physicians to prescribe medication-assisted treatment (MAT) via telemedicine.