Government Leaders Band Together to Support Initiatives to Battle Drug Abuse

West Virginia leads nation in prescription painkiller related deaths, but trails majority of states in electronic prescribing of controlled substances

ARLINGTON, Va. – October 22, 2015 – President Obama announced yesterday, while visiting West Virginia, efforts to fight the nationwide drug crisis by increasing training for care providers prescribing opioids and improved access to treatment facilities for those addicted. This announcement follows the introduction of White House funding for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program in August, increasing training for law enforcement and first responders addressing heroin and prescription painkiller-related incidents. Local leaders and authorities also announced a partnership to increase access through cooperative purchasing of opioid withdraw medications.

“The drug epidemic this country is facing can only be defeated through collaboration and support from government officials as well as care providers and technology leaders,” said Tom Skelton, Chief Executive Officer of Surescripts, the nation’s largest health information network. “Digitizing the prescription ordering process for controlled substances is a direct step prescribers and pharmacies can take to improve patient safety while preventing fraud and abuse.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia has the highest death rate from prescription painkiller overdoses in the United States (414 prescription painkiller related deaths in 2013) and is taking extra measures to respond to the plague of abuse, requiring additional training for prescribers of opioids. However, more can be done through the use of technology. Electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) was legalized in West Virginia in 2010, but today less than one percent of prescribers and only 74 percent of pharmacies in the state are enabled to use the technology, ranking 37th in terms of readiness to e-prescribe controlled substances. West Virginia trails the national average of less than three percent of prescribers and just under 95 percent of pharmacies EPCS enabled.

As of this year, EPCS is legal in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. but more education is needed to drive adoption and utilization nationwide. Surescripts created an online resource available to physicians outlining the steps they need to take to begin using EPCS. The website ( lists actions 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.

About Surescripts

Surescripts is committed to unleashing the potential of American healthcare by creating a more connected and collaborative healthcare system. Our nationwide health information network connects doctor’s offices, hospitals, pharmacists, and health plans through an integrated and technology neutral platform. For more information, go to and follow us at

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October 22, 2015 • 4 min read