Chilivis Grubman attorneys aim to keep you informed about key developments in healthcare regulations. This article provides a comprehensive update on the evolving landscape of telemedicine prescriptions in Georgia and the recent changes introduced by the Georgia Composite Medical Board.

In 2008, the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act was enacted due to the escalating concerns about the illicit sale and distribution of controlled substances over the Internet. Named after Ryan Haight, a teenager who tragically lost his life due to an overdose of prescription medication obtained through an online pharmacy, the legislation aimed to address the dangers posed by online pharmacies and telemedicine services. The Act’s key provision mandated that prescribing physicians conduct at least one in-person medical examination of a patient before prescribing a controlled substance, emphasizing the importance of direct patient-physician interactions for proper medical evaluation.

However, in response to the challenges posed by the unforeseen COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) temporarily allowed physicians practicing via telemedicine to prescribe Schedule II-V controlled substances, including Schedule III-V narcotic-controlled medications for opioid use disorder treatment. While the PHE ended on May 11, 2023, the DEA and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) extended telemedicine flexibilities through a temporary rule, allowing physicians to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine until December 31, 2024.

But in its December 2023 meeting, the Georgia Composite Medical Board voted to rescind its previous position on the flexibility allowed through the DEA’s telehealth prescribing policy during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective January 1, 2024, all licensees in Georgia are required to adhere strictly to the Medical Practice Act and Board Rules for proper prescribing practices. Under Chapter 360-3 of the Rules of Georgia Composite Medical Board, when initially prescribing a controlled substance for the treatment of pain or chronic pain, a physician must have a medical history of the patient, conduct a physical examination, and obtain informed consent. In emergencies, a physician may prescribe an amount of medication to cover a period of not more than 72 hours without a physical examination.

While telemedicine has proven invaluable during the pandemic, recent shifts underscore the evolving regulatory landscape. The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman counsel clients of all types and sizes in connection with healthcare law. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.