ARLINGTON, Va. – August 28, 2015 – Physicians and pharmacists across the United States can now legally prescribe and dispense controlled substances electronically, as Vermont today becomes the final state in the nation to take this critical step in the fight against prescription fraud and drug abuse.
“Care providers, pharmacies and government officials are working together to combat the prescription drug abuse epidemic that plagues our nation,” said Tom Skelton, Chief Executive Officer of Surescripts, the nation’s largest health information network. “Throwing out the prescription pad and opting for an electronic process makes it easier for patients to get the medications they need while helping to prevent fraud and abuse.”
Deaths from prescription painkillers have quadrupled since 1999, killing more than 16,000 people in the United States in 2013i. Nearly two million Americans, aged 12 or older, either abused or were dependent on opioids in 2013ii.
Federal and state authorities are responding to the rapid rise in opioid abuse and deaths. Earlier in August, the White House announced funding for its High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program that combines law enforcement and public health resources to help fight painkiller abuse, including the development of training for local law enforcement and first responders to help them handle heroin and prescription painkiller-related incidents.
Making e-prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) legal nationwide, while a critical step, is only one part of solving the problem of prescription painkiller abuse. The next step is for physicians in every state to adopt and use the technology. To support this goal, Surescripts is leading an online effort to educate physicians on the steps they need to take to begin using EPCS. The website (www.getEPCS.com) outlines the actions that physicians must take, offering easy to follow guidance on assessing the certification status of electronic health records software, obtaining identity proofing and signing credentials, and setting access controls.
All of these efforts are beginning to pay off. In just the first half of 2015, Surescripts processed 4 million electronic prescriptions for controlled substances, a significant increase over the 1.6 million processed in all of 2014.
i Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Vital Statistics System mortality data. (2015) Available from URL: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/deaths.htm.
ii Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series