Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts


Telehealth’s expansion during the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the approach to healthcare in the United States. This is particularly true in the behavioral health sector where several behavioral telehealth companies have emerged to treat Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”). These companies utilize a direct-to-consumer (“DTC”) model with a virtual platform that connects subscribing patients to medical providers who can treat them for ADHD. Although this telemedicine model emphasizes convenience and efficiency, the reality is that those benefits come at the cost of patient care. The federal regulations promulgated in the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 to curtail the distribution of controlled substances over the internet are inadequate.

This paper argues that the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (“DEA”) sparse regulatory structure for telehealth companies has fostered an environment where ADHD telehealth companies prescribe controlled substances with impunity. These companies aggressively advertise to potential consumers, provide low-quality mental health treatment, and overprescribe controlled substances. The DEA and the FDA should enact new requirements to both protect consumers from harmful health practices and improve the quality of telehealth services. Specifically, the DEA should establish drug-specific guidelines for a special registration for telehealth providers under the Ryan Haight Act to be able to prescribe controlled substances through telehealth services. Further, the advertisements made by these companies should be subject to the Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA”) oversight under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.