In a recent letter to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, a bipartisan group of senators pushed for a new rule that would expand rural communities’ access to opioid addiction treatment by easing restrictions on providers’ ability to prescribe controlled substances through telemedicine.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both Republicans from Alaska, called for healthcare providers in limited cases to be exempt from current laws requiring prescribers to see a patient in person before issuing a prescription for a controlled substance, such as those used in medication assisted treatment. In the senators’ proposal, practitioners would be able to obtain a special registration to write prescriptions as part of opioid addiction treatment via telemedicine.
The expansion of telehealth “would ensure that controlled substances are dispensed in a tightly regulated and safe way,” Murkowski said in a news release.
Accessing in-person treatment for substance use disorders has been particularly challenging for many in the senators’ home states. In Missouri, 98 of 101 rural counties do not have licensed psychiatrists, while 80% of communities in Alaska are not connected to a road system.