The Florida state government has amended its state code to allow certain controlled substances to be prescribed via telehealth, a regulatory boon for medication-assisted treatment.
On April 6., Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 312 into law after it cleared the Florida Senate, its final legislative hurdle, on March 11.
Specifically, the bill permits all but Schedule II drugs to be prescribed via telehealth and there are exceptions to that prohibition — in the treatment of a psychiatric disorder, during hospital inpatient treatment, during hospice treatment or when a patient is in the care of a nursing home facility.
Schedule II drugs include oxycodone, fentanyl, methadone and Adderall. The Drug Enforcement Administration defines these drugs as those “with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence” and are considered dangerous.
The bill goes into effect July 1.
This opens additional avenues for medication-assisted treatment because it partially relies on being able to prescribe controlled substances. For example, buprenorphine is a Schedule III drug and is considered by some the gold standard for treating opioid use disorder.
Several virtual medication-assisted treatment providers have made moves during the pandemic, which has been a regulatorily friendly time.
To name a few, Boston-based Bicycle Health landed $27 million in Series A in June 2021. New York City-based Minded Inc. secured $25 million in seed funding to help it expand the geographic reach and impact of its telepsychiatry and medication management platform. Ophelia Health raised $65 million in 2021.
Nathaniel Lacktman, a partner at Foley & Lardner LLP, said that health care providers still need to be mindful of federal regulations when considering telehealth prescribing.
“Florida law must be read in harmony with the Ryan Haight Act requirements, and a prescriber must comply with both Florida and federal laws in this regard,” Lacktman wrote in a blog post. “Clinicians delivering care via telemedicine, particularly across multiple states, must understand and navigate many intersecting state and federal laws on telemedicine, medical practice, fraud and abuse, and controlled substances.”
The Ryan Haight act requires an in-person to help set a threshold for the patient and then one in-person visit every 24 months. However, the DEA has waived the in-person requirements for prescribing controlled substances via telehealth in response to the pandemic.
The DEA also signaled that the agency was open to maintaining the flexibility for medication-assisted treatment.
“At DEA, our goal is simple: we want medication-assisted treatment to be readily and safely available to anyone in the country who needs it,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement released on March 23.