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In a letter presented to the U.S. Senate on February 27, Surescripts expressed strong support for the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely (EPCS) Act, and thanked the policymakers who have championed this important bi-partisan bill. The letter was submitted for the record the same day the bill was introduced to the Senate.

The Senate legislation is a companion to a House bi-partisan bill, first introduced by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) in July, with the same title and focus. Surescripts issued a letter of support for the House bill in August. If enacted, the EPCS Act will require that controlled substances under the Medicare Part D program be prescribed electronically (otherwise known as e-prescribed) nationwide, starting in 2020. The use of this health information technology is critical to fight the opioid epidemic that is currently ravaging the country.

Surescripts co-authored the letter to the Senate with other healthcare industry leaders and partners. The letter applauds the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), and urges their Congressional colleagues to support this vital legislation. Current co-sponsors include Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA).

The EPCS Act follows vanguard laws enacted by state legislatures in response to the crisis. New York, Maine, Virginia, Connecticut, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Minnesota and Arizona have already passed legislation to mandate the e-prescribing of controlled substances. This technology has an added level of security and convenience from start to finish: from the prescriber submitting the prescription electronically to the pharmacy dispensing medication to the patient. For an update on the latest policy developments across the states, check out our interactive map.

“Over the past few years, the private sector has dramatically improved its use of e-prescribing,” states the letter, noting that e-prescribing has grown from 1 billion prescriptions in 2013 to 1.6 billion in 2016. “Yet, despite this vast growth, [the electronic prescribing of controlled substances] is lagging behind broader e-prescribing trends.”

Surescripts delivered more than 77 million electronic prescriptions for controlled substances across our network in 2017, representing a 71% increase over 2016.1 But this number represents just 19 percent of all controlled substance prescriptions, and with just 22.9% of prescribers enabled for the technology as of January 20182, we still need to overcome a significant gap in adoption and use of a tool that can help combat the epidemic.

Surescripts has long championed greater use of health information technology to help rein in the opioid crisis.

Data from self-reported drug abusers suggests that between 3% and 9% of diverted opioid prescriptions are tied to forged paper prescriptions.3 EPCS can address drug diversion linked to prescription fraud and forgery by eliminating paper prescriptions. EPCS also mandates security measures, such as requiring prescribers to conduct identity proofing, enable two-factor authentication and set access controls, making the entire process safer and more secure.

But EPCS is just one tool in a panoply of health information technologies that can be harnessed to fight opioid abuse while ensuring that prescribers and pharmacists can make informed care decisions for patients.

Robust, electronic medication history data is available nationwide across all care settings. Having an up-to-date view of a patient’s medication history at the point of prescribing empowers prescribers to make the best care decisions. In fact, Surescripts delivered more than 1.46 billion medication histories4 in 2017. These histories are informed by patient-specific data from pharmacies and PBMs and include dispensed prescriptions for both controlled and non-controlled substances over the past 12 months.

In addition to EPCS and electronic medication histories, a number of other clinical tools can help prescribers and clinicians provide appropriate care while navigating the opioid crisis.

  • Surescripts’ nationwide record locator and exchange service retrieves and delivers clinical records from all over the U.S., regardless of EHR or care setting, allowing a prescriber to quickly assess the care that the patient is receiving across settings. Surescripts Record Locator & Exchange provides access to records for 230 million patients5, all in compliance with applicable privacy laws and security best practices. 
  • Clinical Direct Messaging supports secure communications between clinicians and prescribers who may suspect a particular patient is encountering possible addiction.
  • And given that one in five patients become addicted to opioids even with just a ten-day drug therapy,6 prescribers need to know whether patients in need of pain relief are adhering to the right medications at the right dose or taking medications that may cause them harm. Electronic medication adherence alerts help address these questions.

These technologies exist today, and can be deployed today. And smart legislation such as the EPCS Act and similar state laws can serve as a critical catalyst for their wider adoption. With 116 Americans dying from opioid-related drug overdoses each and every day, there’s no time to wait.7

Together, we can make a difference in the fight against the opioid crisis.

1 Surescripts internal network data 
2 Ibid 
3 Rosenblum, Andrew, et al. "Prescription opioid abuse among enrollees into methadone maintenance treatment." Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2007; Inciardi, James A., et al. "The “black box” of prescription drug diversion." Journal of Addictive Diseases, 2009 
4 Surescripts internal network data 
5 Ibid