Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today released the following statement on a notice by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that it will consider creating a special registration process that would allow quality health care providers to prescribe controlled substances over telehealth safely, as they’ve done during the pandemic. Sen. Warner has been a vocal advocate for telehealth and has previously called on the DEA to establish this process.

“Telehealth was a lifesaver for patients during the peak of the pandemic and has since opened the door to uncomplicated and reliable access to a doctor for patients who need it. Given the shortage of mental health providers and the increased need for access to prescribers through telehealth, I’m pleased that the DEA is finally looking into establishing a rule to allow specially trained prescribers to continue administering controlled substances virtually without requiring an in-person visit. This rule will be especially meaningful to patients who rely on medications that treat opioid use disorder, among many others. I encourage prescribers and patients to participate in the DEA’s public comment period and provide their input on this proposed rule.” 

Since 2008, Congress has directed the DEA to set up a special registration process, an exception process under the Ryan Haight Act, a law that regulates the online prescription of controlled substances. This special registration process would open up the door for quality health care providers to evaluate a patient and prescribe these medications over telehealth safely, as was done for years during the pandemic.

Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur, has been a longtime advocate for increased access to telehealth. He is an original cosponsor of the CONNECT for Health Act, which would expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities permanent, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to safely connect with their doctors. He previously wrote to both the Biden and Trump administrations, urging the DEA to finalize regulations long-delayed by prior administrations allowing doctors to prescribe controlled substances through telehealth. Sen. Warner also sent a letter to Senate leadership during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, calling for the permanent expansion of access to telehealth services.

In 2018, Sen. Warner included a provision to expand financial coverage for virtual substance use treatment in the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. In 2003, then-Gov. Warner expanded Medicaid coverage for telemedicine statewide, including evaluation and management visits, a range of individual psychotherapies, the full range of consultations, and some clinical services, including in cardiology and obstetrics. Coverage was also expanded to include non-physician providers. Among other benefits, the telehealth expansion allowed individuals in medically underserved and remote areas of Virginia to access quality specialty care that isn’t always available at home.