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CVS won’t fill prescriptions for controlled substances from two telehealth companies

It cited concerns with Cerebral and Done Health.

Andrew Kelly / reuters

CVS will no longer fill prescriptions from telehealth companies Cerebral and Done Health for controlled substances. The pharmacy chain said that, following a review, it had unresolved concerns with both companies. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news.

"We are committed to making mental health services as accessible and convenient as possible. At the same time, it is important that medications are prescribed appropriately," CVS Health's executive director of corporate communications Mike DeAngelis told Engadget.

"We recently conducted a review of certain telehealth companies that prescribe controlled substance medications. As a result of our being unable to resolve concerns we have with Cerebral and Done Health, effective May 26th, 2022, CVS Pharmacy will no longer accept prescriptions for controlled substances issued through these companies."

The startups have tens of thousands of patients between them, the Journal notes. They have prescribed stimulants such as Adderall for patients with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These stimulants are regulated and classed as schedule 2 controlled substances due to the risk of abuse.

Some other pharmacies, such as Walmart and Truepill, previously delayed or declined to fill prescriptions from the two startups. They reportedly had concerns that clinicians at Cerebral and Done were writing too many stimulant prescriptions.

It recently emerged that Cerebral is under investigation by the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Following that news, the company put prescriptions for ADHD meds for new patients on hold. Cerebral said last week it would stop prescribing most controlled substances for all patients by October. Just two days after that, its board replaced CEO Kyle Robertson.

Along with ADHD, Cerebral says it treats depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders and serious mental illnesses through therapy, counseling and, in some cases, prescriptions. Done focuses on ADHD treatment.

Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, clinicians were banned from prescribing stimulants without an in-person visit with patients. Those federal rules were loosened in March 2020 for schedule 2 substances, which enabled Cerebral and Done to start offering prescriptions after virtual consultations.

Update 5/25 7:40PM ET: "We learned on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 24 that CVS will no longer fill Cerebral’s controlled substance prescriptions, effective Thursday, May 26. This decision does not affect Cerebral’s non-controlled substance prescriptions," Cerebral told Engadget via email. The company says is "doing everything possible to ensure these patients get access to medications that their health care providers have determined they need," as well as reaching out to impacted patients "to help ensure that their transition to another source of prescribed medications." Prior to CVS's decision, Cerebral says it had stopped new prescriptions for controlled substances due to the "impending expiration of waivers enacted during the [COVID-19] state of emergency."'

Update 5/26 10:30AM ET: "While we are disappointed with the decision of some pharmacies to prevent access to prescriptions generated on our platform, we will continue to provide them with clarity on Done and our commitment to high-quality psychiatric chronic care management," Done said in a statement to Engadget.

"Done is currently assisting affected patients and providers with the transition of their pharmacy choice and we expect this situation will be quickly resolved, if provided the opportunity, so patients can access the medications they have been prescribed using evidence based medicine," it added. "Done hopes that companies with a mission to 'help people on their path to better health' and that are 'committed to patient safety and well-being' would value deeply rooted evidence based treatment for ADHD — a mental health condition, instead of placing additional barriers to care that millions struggle to receive on a daily basis."