AG Ashley Moody heads multistate effort to extend telehealth opioid disorder treatment

by | Nov 21, 2022

 

  • Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is heading a coalition of 45 attorneys general to advocate for the permanent installation of pandemic-time emergency telehealth rules 
  • The group seeks that a pair of federal agencies permanently extend telehealth flexibilities for prescribing buprenorphine, the medically preferred opioid use disorder treatment
  • The Drug Enforcement Administration approved the prescription of buprenorphine through telehealth visitations in March 2020, further loosening regulations later that month 
  • When the public health emergency expires, 2.5 million people who use buprenorphine could be cut off from accessing the medication through means of telehealth

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is leading a bipartisan coalition of 45 attorneys general requesting that temporary emergency rules aiding individuals suffering from opioid use disorder are permanently put in place. 

The consortium seeks that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) permanently extend telehealth flexibilities for prescribing buprenorphine, the medically preferred opioid use disorder treatment.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permitted prescription of the medication via methods of telehealth, though the rule is set to expire when the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.

“As state attorneys general, our top priority is always keeping the people of our respective jurisdictions safe. We’ve led multiple legal efforts to hold those responsible for the opioid crisis accountable, which have resulted in significant funds our state can use to support strategies to lower overdose rates,” reads the letter to a series of federal officials including national Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. “The coinciding public health emergencies of COVID-19 and the opioid crisis called for urgent change to our care delivery systems to allow for more accessible treatment options. We need your help now so that successful strategies implemented during the pandemic are not discontinued.”

According to the letter, America’s overdose death rate has never been higher, and establishing proven methods of treatment like telehealth services is critical in creating a foundation to treat and prevent future addiction crises.

The DEA approved audio-visual telemedicine services for the administration of all schedule II-V controlled drugs, including buprenorphine, on March 16, 2020.

The DEA issued additional guidance on March 31, 2020, saying that prescribers had the freedom to prescribe buprenorphine over the phone without the requirement of in-person or video examination.

This flexibility remains in effect, as the COVID-19 public health emergency has yet to end, but the looming expiration of the public health emergency could potentially cut off the estimated 2.5 million U.S. adults who use buprenorphine from accessing treatment and medication via telemedicine.

Moody has spearheaded both a state and national effort to reduce the prevalence of opioids in local communities. In September, she again led a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general, this time seeking that President Joe Biden declares fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction.

In its plea to the President, the group declares that fentanyl is compounding the national mortality toll, which has climbed dramatically in recent years. The illicit substances were found to have been mostly manufactured in Mexico and trafficked across the border to hub cities like Atlanta before making way to smaller cities and towns across the country.

Should the substance be declared a weapon of mass destruction, it would require federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department, and Department of Health to work in tandem to combat the opioid crisis, presumably expediting the response.

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