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As the nation’s policy makers grapple with how to curb the opioid epidemic, we at Surescripts continue to join the conversation at various forums and offer our assistance and expertise in support of the cause.

At a recent meeting of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Opioid Policy Steering Committee (OPSC), committee members requested public comments on its efforts to:

  1. Decrease exposure and prevent new addiction
  2. Support the treatment of those with opioid use disorder
  3. Foster the development of novel pain treatment therapies
  4. Improve enforcement and assess benefit-risk

We took this opportunity in a March 16 letter to the committee in which we explained how electronic prescribing for controlled substances (EPCS) and electronic medication history can help improve prescribing behavior and prevent opioid misuse or diversion.

As the nation’s largest health information network, Surescripts connects virtually all electronic health records (EHRs), pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacies and clinicians, plus an increasing number of health plans, long-term and post-acute care organizations and specialty pharmacy organizations.

“Our cross-market experience gives us a unique perspective on the role that health information technology (HIT) can play in providing actionable intelligence to help reduce opioid abuse while ensuring that patients receive quality care and clinically appropriate medications,” the letter said.

And one of the most promising of these technologies is EPCS.

“EPCS can reduce illegal diversion, a significant driver fueling the opioid epidemic … Broad adoption of EPCS would eliminate paper-based fraud. Equally important, it would create electronic records of controlled substance transactions, strengthening surveillance and improving accountability.”

The letter also detailed nationwide and state adoption of EPCS and the many positive results that come with using it.

We at Surescripts are committed to assisting state policymakers who are working to incentivize EPCS, and we recently expressed our support for Congressional bipartisan bills that would require EPCS use under the Medicare Part D program nationwide.

Given the efficacy and impact of EPCS, “[w]e recommend that the Steering Committee support legislative and regulatory efforts to accelerate adoption and use of EPCS by prescribers,” stated the letter.

In addition to EPCS, the letter encouraged the FDA to consider technologies that give prescribers a more complete picture of the medications their patient has received and from whom. Our medication history solution does exactly that, and is an excellent complement to state-based Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs).

There are a number of other technologies can help healthcare practitioners make better informed care decisions while navigating the complexities of the opioid crisis. Having actionable intelligence at the point of prescribing empowers physicians in just about every way imaginable, and the following are some of the technologies that make it possible. 

Surescripts’ record locator and exchange service retrieves and delivers clinical records from all over the U.S., regardless of EHR or health system, allowing a prescriber to quickly assess their patient’s care across multiple settings. Our Record Locator & Exchange service provides access to records for 230 million patients, or virtually the entire U.S. population), and we do so in a way that complies with all applicable privacy laws and security best practices.

Clinical Direct Messaging supports secure communication between clinicians and prescribers who may suspect a particular patient is at-risk for or experiencing opioid use disorder.

And given that one in five patients becomes dependent on opioids with just a ten-day drug therapy, prescribers need to know if their patient is adhering to their medications, i.e. taking the right drugs at the right dosage, or taking medications that may harm them in combination (as in the case of an adverse drug event). Electronic medication adherence alerts that are easy to consume within the EHR help answer these important questions.

We understand that there is no silver bullet and no simple solution to put a stop to the opioids scourge, but we’re confident that technology can help turn the tide.

We commend OPSC’s important work and are honored to contribute to its efforts. Making an impact on the opioid problem calls for all hands on deck—all sectors of society, private and public alike. Together, we can help place the nation on the path to recovery.