Press Releases

Surescripts CEO Kevin Hutchinson Testifies Before Senate Judiciary Committee, Outlines Case for E-Prescribing of Controlled Substances

SureScripts Issues First National Progress Report on E-Prescribing: Growth Is Strong, But Critical Action Is Needed to Advance Physician Adoption

Alexandria, VA - December 4, 2007 - Testifying today before the Senate Judiciary Committee, SureScripts® President and CEO Kevin Hutchinson urged Congress to encourage the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to join the effort to improve patient safety by ending its restrictions on the electronic prescribing of controlled substances. Founded by the pharmacy industry in 2001, SureScripts operates the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange™, which facilitates the secure electronic transmission of prescriptions, medication history and drug benefit information between physicians and pharmacists in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

"The inability to electronically prescribe controlled substances is one of the most frequently cited reasons for not e-prescribing," said Hutchinson. "We have heard from many physicians that as long as these restrictions are in place, e-prescribing does not make sense for them because it requires practices to maintain two separate processes for prescribing: one that is paper-based for controlled substances; and another that is electronically based for noncontrolled substances. In the view of many physicians and pharmacists, the administrative burden of maintaining two separate processes is too great. This not only impacts adoption of e-prescribing technology, but also causes physicians and pharmacists who possess e-prescribing technology to either underutilize it or not use it at all. For simplicity's sake, they stick with paper prescriptions.

"We believe that allowing the e-prescribing of controlled substances would have an immediate impact on eprescribing adoption and utilization and significantly increase the efficiency and safety of a prescribing process relied on by millions of patients every day. What's more, by moving from paper to electronic prescribing of controlled substances, society will benefit from greater accountability of a class of medications whose system of distribution, by their very definition as 'controlled substances,' demands the utmost integrity and control."

As part of his testimony, Hutchinson also disclosed the results of the first National Progress Report on EPrescribing.

Published by SureScripts and based on data derived from the operations of the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange, the at-a-glance report features statistics measuring the current status of eprescribing in the U.S. The report defines e-prescribing as the electronic generation and transmission of prescription data in a secure, standards-based format between computers at the pharmacy and computers at the physician practice (Note: This excludes all forms of faxed prescriptions as well as the electronic transmission of medication history, formulary and eligibility.)

Among the report's findings:

  • In 2007, 35 million prescription transactions will have been routed electronically in the U.S.
  • There were more electronic prescriptions in the first three quarters of 2007 than in 2004, 2005 and 2006 combined.
  • Of the estimated 1.47 billion new prescriptions and renewals eligible for electronic routing in the
  • U.S. in 2007 - two percent (2%) were electronically prescribed.*
  • For 2008, SureScripts estimates the number of prescription transactions routed electronically will grow to over 100 million, thereby increasing the percentage of the nation's new prescriptions and renewals transmitted electronically to approximately seven percent (7%).*


There are over 35,000 prescribers e-prescribing in the U.S.

  • The vast majority of e-prescribers (95 percent) are physicians.
  • This means that six percent (6%) of the 563,000 office based physicians in the U.S. are eprescribing today.**
  • More prescribers electronically prescribed in the first 10 months of 2007 than in all of 2004, 2005 and 2006 combined.
  • For 2008, SureScripts estimates the number of electronic prescribers will grow to approximately 85,000.


There are over 40,000 pharmacies e-prescribing in the U.S. o This represents over 70 percent of pharmacies in the U.S.***

  • For 2008, SureScripts estimates the number of e-prescribing pharmacies will grow to 45,000.


The biggest factors influencing e-prescribing adoption in 2007 were: o Regionally based adoption programs sponsored by payors, health systems, large clinics and state departments of health

  • Executive orders from state and federal officials to eliminate paper prescriptions
  • Physician technology vendor efforts to convert existing user base from faxing to e-prescribing and improve the workflow of their software


"The numbers contained in this first National Progress Report on E-Prescribing indicate three key takeaways," said Hutchinson. "First, that there is a fully operational, nationwide infrastructure that closely adheres to all industry and government-approved standards for e-prescribing. Second, that despite strong momentum and growth, this national asset is grossly underused - every time a paper prescription is written, it is a lost opportunity to improve patient care. And finally, that there are critical actions that can be taken now by both the government and industry to accelerate e-prescribing adoption so we can eliminate paper prescribing and the errors and waste it creates."

The Report concludes with three recommended actions that would have the greatest impact on eprescribing adoption and utilization moving forward:

  • DEA allows e-prescribing of controlled substances
  • Congress grants authority to CMS to mandate e-prescribing in accordance with the advice and recommendations made by the American Health Information Community on November 28, 2007
  • Health plans focus adoption programs and utilization-based incentives on prescribers who generate the vast majority of prescriptions in the U.S.


For a copy of the National Progress Report on E-Prescribing, including downloadable high-resolution graphics, go to www.surescripts.com/report. To download a copy of Kevin Hutchinson's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, go to www.surescripts.com/testimony.

Statistics detailing e-prescribing adoption by individual state will be announced at a press event hosted by Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and founder of the Center for Health Transformation, in the nation's capital during National Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 2 - 8, 2008). The event will include
the first ever nationwide ranking of e-prescribing adoption across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. For information on e-prescribing activity by state, go to www.surescripts.com/saferx.

*Calculated using data provided by Wolters Kluwer.

**Calculated using data provided by the American Medical Association.

***Calculated using data provided by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS).