Legal Assessment Concerning Expedited Partner Therapies (EPT)

On December 19, 2006, CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention released the comprehensive analyses of the Legal Status of Expedited Partner Therapies (EPT) (across jurisdictions), developed jointly by CDC and the Centers.

CDC’s EPT web site provides current information stemming from the extensive assessment of the legal framework concerning EPT. EPT involves the direct delivery of medications or prescriptions by persons infected with certain STDs to their at risk sexual partners. No clinical assessment of the partners is required (which is an existing barrier for some partners who need treatment). In May, 2005, CDC identified EPT as a useful option to facilitate partner management and subsequently (in 2006) endorsed its practice for specific STDs through its 2006 STD Treatment Guidelines.

Though public health studies support the efficacy of EPT as a public health intervention, its legality in some jurisdictions is uncertain. At the crux of legal concerns is the potential unauthorized distribution of prescriptions and other medications by clinicians to persons (partners) who the clinicians have not personally evaluated or established a doctor-patient relationship. Although antibiotic treatment for some STDs (e.g., chlamydia and gonorrhea) offers few risks to patients, the lack of a formal clinical review raises questions as to the legality of EPT.

The Centers partnered with CDC to assess and analyze the legal and policy issues in states and other jurisdictions concerning EPT for STDs. The table and other data posted at CDC’s web site provide key legal provisions for each jurisdiction in response to the specific research question: Whether a physician or other health care provider may provide a prescription for a non-controlled substance to a patient’s partner, without prior evaluation of the partner, for the purposes of treating the partner for specific STDs.

Based on a comprehensive review at a host of laws in each jurisdiction, Centers and CDC authors have published their analyses, “Expedited partner therapy: Assessing the Legal Environment,” in the American Journal of Public Health. 2008; 98(2): 23-28. The data provided online and through published accounts are solely to assist state and local STD programs in their efforts to implement EPT, not to offer legal advice on the status of EPT in any jurisdiction.

On August 12, 2008, the American Bar Association House of Delegates passed a resolution urging the removal of legal barriers to implementing EPT nationally. 

On October 20, 2008, ReachMD on XM Radio posted an initial broadcast concerning expedited partner therapies (EPT). Please link here for more information about the broadcast.