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Surgeon General OK’s telemedicine for medical marijuana, narcotics

Returning patients, not new ones.

With people socially isolating, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees on Monday greenlighted telemedicine for cannabis and controlled substances.

Rules requiring in-person consultations for returning patients (not new ones) have been waylaid by coronavirus, at least for the next 30 days.

“For purposes of preparing for, responding to, and mitigating any effect of COVID-19, qualified physicians under section 381.986, Florida Statutes, may issue a physician certification only for an existing qualified patient with an existing certification that was issued by that qualified physician without the need to conduct a physical examination while physically present in the same room as the patient,” the SG’s emergency order asserted.

The order also permits telemedicine for scheduled narcotics: Physicians, osteopathic physicians, physician assistants, and advanced practice registered nurses licensed in Florida that have designated themselves as a controlled substance prescribing practitioner pursuant to section 456.44, may issue a renewal prescription for a controlled substance listed as Schedule II, Schedule III, or Schedule IV under chapter 893 only for an existing patient for the purpose of treating chronic nonmalignant pain without the need to conduct a physical examination.”

Schedule II narcotics include morphine and hydrocodone.

Tylenol with codeine is on Schedule III.

Valium and Xanax, meanwhile, are examples of Schedule IV medicines.

Some have urged stocking up on medicines in case of travel restrictions, a definite possibility if community spread warrants it.

The Food and Drug Administration, mindful of shortages, “continues to take steps to monitor the supply chain.”

“The Drug Shortage Staff within the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) has asked manufacturers to evaluate their entire supply chain, including active pharmaceutical ingredients, finished dose forms, and any components that may be impacted in any area of the supply chain due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” a statement from the FDA contends

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A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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