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Online companies prescribing and dispensing medications like Adderall are garnering increasing scrutiny from clinicians and regulators who question whether doctors and nurses can really glean enough about patients over video chat to safely recommend controlled substances.

The problem, experts say, is a dearth of clear data. While a spate of new telehealth and digital pharmacy companies have moved into the space in recent years, and more health systems have started prescribing virtually, there still is little insight into whether doctors and nurses tend to write more prescriptions for patients they’ve only met virtually compared with patients they’ve seen in-person. It’s also still not clear whether the patients obtaining online prescriptions are really at higher risk of misusing them, or whether virtual prescriptions present more opportunities to divert drugs.


The lack of clarity is partly because completely virtual prescriptions only recently ramped up, when federal and state regulators eased prescribing restrictions during the pandemic. And researchers also weren’t able to begin apples-to-apples comparisons of in-person and virtual care until options for in-person care resumed.

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