Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Conundrum of Internet Prescribing

For several years ATA has been drawn into controversies surrounding the online prescribing of medications. Some issues in this area are clear but many others are murky and have become even more blurred with biased statements by groups on both sides with an obvious self interest.

Over the past few years, ATA worked with Senate and House staff and related regulatory agencies on limiting online access to controlled substances. The 2008 Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act includes language to protect telemedicine programs from federal efforts to close down sites that illegally sell controlled substances. The Administration is now finalizing their final regulations regarding the Act and they should be made public soon.

ATA has also been asked to comment on recent court judgments against physicians convicted of prescribing in states where they did not hold a license. Other issues related to state licensing, who can prescribe, and the bases for making a prescription are but a few of the issues in question.

It’s complex. Lawyers, politicians, regulatory agencies, advocacy groups and many others have weighed in on parts of the controversy. In some areas, state laws vary and contradict each other as do laws in other countries.

Clearly, ATA cannot and should not attempt to clear up all of the issues surrounding internet prescribing. However, as telemedicine and telehealth grows and the use of telecommunications to provide health services expands, it is important to identify areas of interest to our members with recommended policy solutions. A white paper outlining some of the issues has been posted on the ATA website at

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