THE PERFECT STORM? OPIOID EPIDEMIC MEETS COVID-19 PANDEMIC: REEVALUATING THE ROLE THE RYAN HAIGHT ACT AND THE DEA PLAY IN THE FUTURE OF SAFE ACCESS TO VIRTUAL HEALTHCARE

April 21, 2022
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The COVID-19 pandemic facilitated a dramatic shift to a reliance upon virtual means for communication, education, and work-from-home careers. In addition, there was a surge in telehealth appointments as an alternative to the traditional in-person provision-of-care model. However, COVID-19 was not operating in isolation but rather in conjunction with the worsening opioid epidemic. Unfortunately, the two public health emergencies coinciding with the rapid development and dependency upon telemedicine created the perfect breeding grounds for illicit online pharmacies to take root and grow into massive criminal organizations that illegally distribute controlled substances, such as opioids. Limited federal legislation and the patchwork of state legislation is insufficient to manage the serious risk these illicit online pharmacies pose to the public’s safety. Thus, it is necessary to enact further legislation that maximizes the protections against illicit online pharmacies while minimizing collateral burdens and barriers to care, especially for vulnerable populations that need telehealth the most. While it is desirable that Congress enact further legislation to this end, given the immediate need presented by illicit online pharmacies, it is best to divert resources towards the Drug Enforcement Agency, specifically the Diversion Control Division, to increase enforcement and produce additional guidance, as well as educational materials.

Author: Allison Gray

PDF: http://ncjolt.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2022/04/NC-JOLT-Vol-23.3_598-635_Gray.pdf

Volume 23, Issue 3