Telehealth and online pharmacies have become commonplace in recent years, but they have also become the subject of scrutiny and debate as regulators look to get the fast-growing industries under control. For Truepill, that means a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) allegation regarding the unlawful dispensing of thousands of stimulant prescriptions like Adderall.
The DEA served Truepill with an Order to Show Cause. Under the order, the telehealth and digital pharmacy company must justify the prescriptions and actions the DEA believes to be illegal. The administrative action will determine whether a DEA Certificate of Registration should be revoked.
- While the Order to Show Cause is underway, Truepill will retain the ability to handle and distribute controlled substances.
- DEA Administrator Anne Milgram made a statement regarding the agency’s hard stance on the unlawful dispensing of powerful and addictive controlled substances for profit by companies and pharmacies.
Truepill worked as a pharmacy for telehealth companies like Cerebral, which has faced its own troubles with prescribing practices and a situation that led to the death of an underage patient. In the case of Cerebral, patients received prescriptions for ADHD treatments via telehealth visits, and Truepill filled the prescriptions.
- ADHD treatments were marketed directly to consumers by telehealth companies using social media and internet ads.
- Another company that faced DEA scrutiny for its prescribing practices was the ADHD-focused telehealth startup Done.
More than 72,000 controlled substance prescriptions in two years. Truepill filled a massive number of prescriptions between September 2020 and September 2022, with 60% of them being stimulant prescriptions. However, there were numerous prescriptions that were not legitimate.
- The stimulant prescriptions included generic versions of Adderall.
- The DEA’s investigation revealed that the digital pharmacy would fill prescriptions exceeding the 90-day supply limits. It also filled prescriptions that were prescribed by those without proper state licensing.
“In numerous instances, Truepill dispensed controlled substances pursuant to prescriptions that were not issued for a legitimate medical purpose in the usual course of professional practice,” said DEA officials.
Truepill halted prescriptions for Adderall and other controlled substances. It took action in April, likely trying to get ahead of the increased scrutiny. However, the digital pharmacy did not manage to stop the investigations and allegations from catching up to it.
At the time, Truepill spoke out about its “extremely high standard of clinical protocols and practices” meant to ensure patient safety. The decision was made out of caution, according to the company, though it seems that the same caution did not apply to its prior dispensing practices.
Truepill has seen four rounds of layoffs in 2022. The company has faced mounting pressure as it has attempted to sustain itself through tough economic times. The layoffs have narrowed the company’s focus to its core pharmacy business, meaning any significant hit will be a painful blow to the struggling business.
Competition is fierce, so stumbling is not an option. Telehealth companies and digital pharmacies are incredibly competitive, with one example being Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drugs, which is making waves in the entire pharmaceutical industry. If the DEA ends up taking action, it might be difficult for Truepill to recover.