National e-prescribing bill gains support as Trump declares opioid state of emergency
President Donald Trump declared the ongoing opioid epidemic a national emergency on Thursday, pledging to spend "a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money" to combat the crisis and give states and federal agencies more tools and resources to fight addiction.
Another critical weapon in the battle against opioids is health information technology, and a new bill filed on Capitol Hill this week calls for requiring e-prescribing of controlled substances nationwide to establish more stringent oversight of how opioids and other addictive drugs are dispensed.
Six states, starting in 2016 with New York and Maine, have ECPS requirements of their own. And most health IT vendors have long overcome the legal and technology certification hurdles that had previously made it a challenge.
The Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act, introduced July 28 by Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Massachusetts, and Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Oklahoma, aims to eliminate the doctor shopping and duplicative or fraudulent handwritten prescriptions that are helping spread the opioid crisis by requiring nationwide e-prescribing for controlled substances under Medicare.
The bill, H. R. 3528, would amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to require eRx for prescription drugs that are controlled substances – oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, hydrocodone to name just a few – under Medicare Part D.
"Modernizing public health practices to include electronic prescriptions will curb the over-prescribing of opioids, eliminate the costs and inefficiencies of paperwork, and strengthen communication between doctors and patients," Clark said Wednesday in a statement announcing the legislation. "Congress should come together to pass this common-sense solution to prevent overdoses and save lives."
"By requiring all doctors and pharmacists to use an online database when prescribing these highly addictive drugs, we allow e-prescriptions to control, track, and monitor these highly addictive painkillers on a new level," added Mullin.
The bill is getting early support from industry. Steven C. Anderson, CEO the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, endorsed it this past week in a letter to Clark and Mullin.
With ECPS, "prescribers can more easily track the controlled substance prescriptions a patient has received," he wrote. "Additionally, electronic controlled substance prescriptions cannot be altered, cannot be copied, and are electronically trackable. Furthermore, the federal DEA rules for electronic controlled substances prescriptions establish strict security measures, such as two-factor authentication, that reduce the likelihood of fraudulent prescriptions."
Another proponent of the bill is Imprivata, the security company that develops tools such as Confirm ID, which helps providers meet stringent DEA requirements for EPCS.
The EPCS Act "reflects federal policymakers' focus on upstream solutions to the opioid epidemic by employing already-existing e-Prescribing technology that is proven and usable," said Sean Kelly, MD, Imprivata's chief medical officer.
"Six states have enacted legislation mandating electronic prescribing of controlled substances," noted Kelly, who's also an emergency room doctor at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "A federal law would quickly increase the impact that technology can have in preventing addiction before it happens and reducing the loss of life due to the opioid epidemic."