Federal law requires an in-person medical evaluation before a practitioner may prescribe a controlled substance. Some exceptions, however, exist. One of them is a declared public health emergency.
On January 31, 2020, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services issued such a public health emergency.
On March 16, 2020, the Secretary and the Acting DEA Administrator announced that practitioners may prescribe controlled substances via Telehealth in all areas of the United States. Accordingly, as long as the Secretary’s designation of a public health emergency remains in effect, DEA-registered practitioners in all areas of the United States may issue prescriptions for controlled substances to patients without an in-person evaluation provided all of the following conditions are met:
- The prescription is issued for a legitimate medical purpose by a practitioner acting in the usual course of his/her professional practice;
- The telemedicine communication is conducted using an audio-visual, real-time, two-way interactive communication system; and
- The practitioner is acting in accordance with applicable Federal and State laws.
The practitioner may issue a prescription either electronically (for schedules II-V) or by calling in an emergency schedule II prescription to the pharmacy, or by calling in a schedule III-V prescription to the pharmacy.
DEA further clarifies: If the prescribing practitioner has previously conducted an in-person medical evaluation of the patient, the practitioner may issue a prescription for a controlled substance after having communicated with the patient via telemedicine, or any other means, regardless of whether a public health emergency has been declared, so long as the prescription is issued for a legitimate medical purpose and the practitioner is acting in the usual course of his/her professional practice. In addition, for the prescription to be valid, the practitioner must comply with applicable Federal and State laws.