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On Monday, December 1, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced in a final rule its decision to require that Part D providers use e-prescribing for controlled substances (EPCS) effective January 1, 2021. The rule implements a provision of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act which became law in 2018.   

Earlier this year CMS proposed an implementation date of January 1, 2022. In response, Surescripts submitted comments urging CMS to implement the mandate on January 1, 2021, consistent with the deadline set in the SUPPORT Act.  We argued that a delay would put seniors at higher risk for COVID by increasing their points of exposure during in-person healthcare and pharmacy visits required when paper prescriptions are used. We also made the case that now is not the time to delay use of a technology that has proved effective at addressing the opioid crisis that also continues to plague the country. 

Because the final rule was issued just one month before the implementation date, CMS will delay imposing penalties for noncompliance until January 1, 2022, to minimize the burden on prescribers. In the meantime, CMS will release a second rule that addresses enforcement and penalties.

From the final rule: “To help ensure that section 2003 of the SUPPORT Act is implemented smoothly and with minimal burden to prescribers, in this CY 2021 PFS final rule we are finalizing that prescribers be required to use the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs, (NCPDP) SCRIPT 2017071 standard for EPCS prescription transmissions, the same standard which Part D plans are already required to support. We proposed implementation of the EPCS mandate effective January 1, 2022 but based on comments received, are finalizing the provision with an effective date of January 1, 2021.” 

There’s no doubt that mandates such as these are key to accelerating the adoption of EPCS  nationwide. In fact, states with mandates effective in late 2019 or early 2020 demonstrated the greatest growth in adoption according to Surescripts 2019 National Progress Report. We expect that this progress will only continue as EPCS requirements take effect in 11 more states on January 1, 2021

Surescripts considers this final rule to be a very positive development in the fight against the opioid epidemic during an especially troubling time for both healthcare professionals and their patients. And we commend CMS on its responsiveness to feedback from Surescripts and other healthcare industry stakeholders who argued for implementing the law on the date required by law.

Download Surescripts 2019 National Progress Report to learn more about the progress made by the Surescripts Network Alliance in using EPCS to combat the opioid epidemic.