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DEA Extends Pandemic Prescription Drug Rules: Thousands of Veterans Affected

Thousands of veterans stand to benefit from an extension of online healthcare rules left over from the pandemic.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has extended a pandemic-era rule allowing online prescriptions (including controlled substances like pain medications) across state lines.

This move is expected to benefit thousands of veterans who participate in telehealth or online healthcare in the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system. It also benefits many non-military members who also rely on telemedicine for prescriptions.

The pandemic rules allowing doctors to prescribe medications online and across state lines was meant to expire in May 2023, but the rule is now in effect for six more months.

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The Department of Veterans Affairs Lobbied for the Extension

The VA Secretary says congressional action is needed to offer veterans “the same level of access and high-quality care they deserve,” including the ability to continue getting online care across state lines.

According to the VA, during the pandemic, the emergency rules that allowed telemedicine also enhanced the VA’s reach into rural areas and better serves those with disabilities. Ending the ability to get remote prescriptions potentially affects nearly 3 million rural veterans.

Another one-million-plus veterans not enrolled in VA health services would also lose the ability to get prescription drugs without travel–the DEA extension affects civilians and military members alike.

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Could the Extension Become Permanent?

It is entirely possible the extension could be written into law permanently. The DEA received nearly 40 thousand comments when it proposed new telemedicine rules earlier in 2023; the DEA is considering a permanent extension to the rule allowing prescriptions for non-narcotic medications without an in-person visit.

The DEA is considering versions of the extension that would feature a 30-day limit for the initial prescription before an in-person visit would be required.

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Terms of the Extension

Under the temporary extension approved by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) all “telehealth flexibilities” permitted under pandemic rules, including online prescriptions up to and including controlled substances for 6 months.

The extension also recognizes allowances for controlled medications prescribed through Nov. 11, 2024. The government is contemplating the future of all this until November 2023, when the future of some remote healthcare options may be decided for good.

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About the author

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.