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Flexibilities in Controlled Substances Prescribing and Dispensing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Publication Date
Allison Kolbe, Jessica White, Teresa Manocchio

The COVID-19 pandemic had wide-ranging impacts on health care delivery, particularly services that require in-person interactions. For patients needing access to medications to treat pain or certain substance use disorders, the COVID-19 pandemic presented particular challenges for continuity of treatment. To ensure continued access to controlled substance medications as well as minimize exposure to COVID-19 from in-person interactions, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration issued emergency policies changing controls under the Ryan Haight Act and the Controlled Substances Act on prescribing and dispensing controlled substances. This brief summarizes federal and state flexibilities related to controlled substance prescribing implemented in response to the COVID-19 PHE between March 2020 and July 2021. Details about individual flexibilities, including source documentation, can be found in the accompanying database.