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Seventy-two organizations, including the American Telemedicine Association and American Psychiatric Association, have sent a letter to government agencies urging them to solidify continued access to controlled substances via telehealth by not requiring initial in-person visits.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the standard set by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was that a patient could only be prescribed controlled substances via telemedicine if an in-person visit had taken place beforehand.

As telemedicine increased and in-person visits dropped during the pandemic, the DEA temporarily waived this standard, allowing patients to access controlled medications through telemedicine.

This policy update had a significant impact on drug prescription. For example, the DEA allowing opioids to be prescribed through telemedicine as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened increased outreach, a study from March 2020 showed.

Further, in September 2020, Surescripts, an e-prescription company, reported increased numbers during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company, which provides direct messaging and prescription price transparency, reached 1 million prescribers during the pandemic.

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