Portland, Oregon, September 13, 2023 – Terminally ill patients would needlessly suffer under the proposed DEA rule to limit the use of telemedicine in prescribing pain control medication, according to testimony delivered by Dr. Robin Plumer yesterday, at a DEA-hosted public listening session.
Dr. Plumer, a physician specializing in end-of-life care, said the DEA “forgot about the end-of-life community” in drafting rules that would require even hospice patients to meet with their physicians in person instead of using telemedicine to get a prescription for pain control medication. Some of her patients live as far as three hours away and it would be impossible for them to safely travel to an in-person appointment.
In March of this year, the DEA announced a series of rule changes that would limit the use of telemedicine for prescribing narcotics due to the impending expiration of emergency COVID-19 regulations, which permitted medical practitioners to prescribe purely through the use of telemedicine.
Advocating on behalf of patients, caregivers, and families, Dr. Plumer and representatives of Death with Dignity, the American Clinicians Academy on Medical Aid in Dying (ACAMAID), and Completed Life Initiative hand-delivered nearly 10,000 letters in opposition to the rule in March, urging the DEA to carve out an exception for dying patients.
“Individuals who are at the end of their lives often rely on controlled substances to relieve what can otherwise be debilitating pain and unbearable shortness of breath… These patients are often weak, homebound, bedbound, and lack transportation to attend a clinic visit in order to obtain their needed medications,” Dr. Plumer testified.
“The terminally ill patients I care for don’t just live in cities near major medical centers. We all know the challenges our healthcare system has in delivering quality care to rural areas. For the terminally ill, this problem is even worse, for they lack easy access to specialized physicians who can provide the care they need.
“The CDC realized the critical need for hospice and palliative care patients to receive adequate symptom relief by specifically stating in their ‘Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids’ that their (CDC) recommendations ‘…do not apply to pain management related to…palliative care or end-of-life care.’”
“We hope the DEA will make a similar thoughtful exception to their well-intended revised proposal regulating controlled substances by excluding those individuals at the end of life,” concluded Dr. Plumer.
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