Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Senators want to let health-care providers use telemedicine to prescribe drugs to treat addiction, to help rural areas

"Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Alaska's two Republican senators -- Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan -- are requesting the Drug Enforcement Administration issue a new regulation that would let certain health-care providers obtain a special registration letting them use telemedicine to prescribe medication for an opioid addiction," Rachel Roubein reports for The Hill.

Doctors can't prescribe medication for an opioid addiction without an in-person medical evaluation, but rural residents increasingly rely on telemedicine, and few live near a dedicated addiction treatment center. Medication-assisted therapy is the most effective known treatment for opioid addiction.

In their letter, the senators note that President Trump specifically supported expanding telemedicine services in fighting the opioid crisis, but the DEA has not yet authorized a special registration process for doctors to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine.

The DEA is taking some steps to address the crisis, though: it announced last week that nurse practitioners and physician assistants will now be authorized to prescribe and dispense buprenorphine from their offices.

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