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by Dr. Rishi R. Khatri, Esq

President Trump signed a law on October 25, 2018, the “Special Registration for Telemedicine Act of 2018” (the Act), requiring the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to create a special registration allowing physicians and nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine without an in-person exam.

The DEA has no more than one year to complete making the system to register practitioners to prescribe controlled substances online via telemedicine.

Currently, the federal Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 (Ryan Haight Act) made it difficult for practitioners to prescribe controlled substances unless the practitioner either:

(1) conducted a prior in-person exam; or (2) met one of seven “practice of telemedicine” exceptions.

However, the “practice of telemedicine” exceptions are very narrow. They created an unintended barrier for legitimate practitioners seeking to use telemedicine to address practitioner shortages and deliver clinically-appropriate medical care to patients located in settings such as homes, schools, and rural areas (all common “originating sites” in contemporary direct-to-patient telemedicine service models).

One of the exceptions – the special registration exception – was designed to allow telemedicine prescribing in these other settings without an in-person exam. However, for nearly ten years, the DEA never activated that special registration. The President’s new law changes that, and requires the DEA to activate that registration.

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