H.R. 5483 directs the Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue regulations to improve the flexibility in the practice of telemedicine (for remote diagnosis and treatment of patients) within one year of the bill’s enactment. Specifically, the bill requires DOJ to allow for the prescription of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other controlled substances via telemedicine. It requires a special registration to connect patients with the treatment they need without risking important safeguards to prevent misuse.
In 2008, Congress strengthened prohibitions against distributing and dispensing controlled substances by passing the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 110-425). The Ryan Haight Act made it illegal for a practitioner to dispense controlled substances through the internet without at least one in-person patient evaluation. The legislation included the ability for the Attorney General to issue a special registration to health care providers to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine in legitimate emergency situations, such as a lack of access to an in-person specialist. However, the waiver process has never been implemented through regulation, and thus some patients still do not have the emergency access to care via telemedicine.