March 14, 2018

Surescripts Commends Congressional Leadership as EPCS Act Gains Traction in Senate, Following House Bill

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


October 24, 2018

Surescripts Applauds New Law to Drive Adoption of Technology to Combat the Opioid Epidemic

Surescripts commends Congress for passing and President Trump for signing H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act into law on October 24, 2018. This law will support the broader adoption of existing technology that can help deter prescription fraud, diversion and abuse. Today marks a major milestone in our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and save lives. Read more...

July 05, 2018

Key Technologies for Fighting Opioid Misuse are Gaining Traction

The statistics are staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the opioid epidemic now takes more lives in the U.S. than breast cancer. In addition, American life expectancy at birth declined for the second consecutive year in 2016 due to a dramatic 21 percent rise in the death rate from drug overdoses. Our nation has not experienced a two-year consecutive decline in life expectancy since the early 1960s as a result of an influenza epidemic. Even the worst mortality rate of the AIDS epidemic in 1993 caused American life expectancy to drop for just one year. Read more...

July 02, 2018

Maine Required E-Prescribing for Opioids Last Year—and the Results Are In

This time last year, Maine implemented legislation that requires electronic prescribing for opioids. At the time, Maine ranked 25th in the nation based on prescriber and pharmacist enablement and utilization of the technology, known as E-Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS). Now the state is ranked third in the nation, with virtually all its pharmacies and more than half of all its prescribers enabled for the technology as of May 2018. New York leads the nation, having implemented a legislative requirement in 2016 that requires all prescriptions to be delivered electronically, including controlled substances. Read more...