In order to facilitate social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, state and federal regulatory agencies are moving quickly to permit providers to continue to provide medical care through telemedicine. On March 16, 2020, Alex Azar, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, has declared a public health emergency and, therefore, activated the telemedicine allowance under 21 U.S.C. § 802(54)(D). Per the Secretary, this applies to all schedule II-V controlled substances in all areas of the United States for as long as the public health emergency declaration is in place so long as the following conditions are met: (1) the prescription must be issued for a legitimate medical purpose by a practitioner acting within his or her usual course of professional practice; (2) the telemedicine communication must be carried out using an audio-visual, real-time, two-way interactive communication system, and (3) the practitioner must act in accordance with all applicable state and federal laws.
In Pennsylvania, Act 96 of 2018 provides exceptions to electronic prescription requirements “in an emergency situation pursuant to Federal or State law and regulations of the department.” Each state regulates the prescription of controlled substances differently and will respond to this ongoing emergency in a different way. Although many restrictions have been eased, providers are urged to ensure that they comply with all applicable laws and regulations when prescribing controlled substances.