House Bill 17 (HB 17) was unanimously approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee. The bill would authorize physicians to prescribe certain drugs and medications through telehealth communication appointments.
Initially filed on Aug. 2, 2021, the bill would expand Florida doctors’ ability to prescribe controlled substances, including anabolic steroids and barbiturates, via online consultations, aiming to ease accessibility to medicine for those of the elderly population that may have trouble reaching physical appointments on their own. In the opposite chamber, a similarly structured Senate bill, SB 312, is also making its way through legislation, approaching the point of a floor hearing.
“HB 17 allows physicians to prescribe schedule 3, 4, and 5 controlled substances via telehealth consultations. This bill was unanimously passed on the House floor last year. We saw during the pandemic through the Governor’s executive order how well telehealth works,” said Rep. Tom Fabricio during the committee meeting. “It saves time for both patients and physicians, it increases the likelihood of patients keeping their appointments, and maintaining their medication regimens.”
As it currently stands, Florida law prohibits doctors from controlled substance prescriptions through telehealth consultations, barring its necessity for the treatment of patients with psychiatric disorders, inpatients at hospitals, and patients in hospice care or nursing home facilities.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, telehealth has been a blessing for many of my patients. It allows me to help my patients in nearly the same way I can when I see them in person; evaluating their symptoms, providing the care they need,” said Mayo Clinic Senior Resident Dr. Kamal Shair. “Allowing physicians like myself to be able to prescribe medications via telecommunication would help ease the accessibility for life-saving medications. In short, I urge you to pass this proposed bill.”
HB17 has received wide bipartisan support and seems likely to be signed into law during the ongoing legislative session.
“Thank you Representative Fabricio for finding the legislative unicorn,” said one speaker from the public. “Taking a complicated issue, a controversial issue, but finding a common ground on which all of the parties appear to have agreed. This will improve access, it will not compromise care, and we firmly support this good legislation.”