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Privacy Notice, expects 400 percent increase in e-prescribing of controlled substances

ARLINGTON, Va. – February 19, 2015 – Surescripts, the nation’s largest health information network, is working industry-wide to improve care and curb prescription fraud, diversion and abuse by connecting pharmacists and doctors and encouraging the adoption of electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS).  In 2015, Surescripts expects to deliver at least 5 million electronic prescriptions of controlled substances, representing an increase of nearly 400 percent over the prior year. 

“A number of complex regulatory and technology requirements exist, and the amount of misinformation about EPCS is daunting, with many prescribers unaware that they have this option or that it’s legal,” said David Yakimischak, Executive Vice President and General Manager at Surescripts. “By eliminating the paper prescription and connecting physicians and pharmacists electronically, there is an opportunity to improve care, reduce fraud, and identify potential instances of abuse.”

Currently, electronic prescribing of controlled substances is legal in 48 states plus the District of Columbia, and lawmaking is pending in Montana and Missouri to allow the practice by the middle of this year.  New York is taking it a step further and requiring that prescriptions for all drugs, including controlled substances, be delivered electronically.

“It’s important that we take steps as an industry to enable the flow of information about prescribing patterns for controlled substances to help manage fraud and abuse,” said Bob Robke, Vice President for Interoperability Strategies and Solutions at Cerner. “Creating an interoperable network for providers and pharmacies to share this information gets us one step closer to breaking down interoperability barriers across all of health care.”

Across the country, more than 70 percent of pharmacies are ready to receive electronic prescriptions for controlled substances, but the number of prescribers who are ready to send them is approximately six percent.  This is despite the fact that more than 60 percent of prescribers who already e-prescribe use software that has at least one EPCS-certified version enabled today.  Beyond the required software updates, medical practices must complete several additional steps before they can legally send electronic prescriptions for controlled substances.

To make this process easier for doctors and to help them get started, Surescripts has created a step-by-step video guide and tools available at This educational guide includes information about how to check if their electronic health records (EHR) software is certified, how to obtain identity proofing and signing credentials, and how to set access controls in their office to ensure EPCS transactions are secure. The online videos and digital tools can be easily embedded into other websites or shared through social media.

“CVS Health is committed to finding solutions to curb the nationwide epidemic of prescription drug abuse. Our retail pharmacies were early adopters of electronic prescribing and all of our 7,800 locations are enabled to receive electronic prescriptions, which is an important tool for reducing incidences of fraudulent controlled substance prescriptions being presented at the pharmacy,” said Josh Flum, Senior Vice President of Retail Pharmacy at CVS Health. “We applaud the efforts of Surescripts to raise awareness of this technology solution. CVS Health stands ready to continue working with industry stakeholders on ways to help our 26,000 pharmacists address the problem of prescription drug abuse and create safer communities.”

In 2013, more than half of all drug overdose deaths in the United States were related to pharmaceuticals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Further, prescription painkiller overdoses from Vicodin (hydrocodone), Oxycontin (oxycodone), Opana (oxymorphone), and methadone, among others, killed more than 16,000 people.  In the United States, costs associated with prescription opioid abuse totaled $55.7 billion in 2007.i

"Pharmacists in New York are ready for EPCS, however there is still a significant need for provider education and training to get them ready too,” said Tracy Russell, Executive Director of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York.  “The information Surescripts is providing to prescribers will aid in increasing awareness of EPCS across the entire health care system and will help drive prescriber utilization of this critical technology.”

Birnbaum HG, White AG, Schiller M, Waldman T, Cleveland JM, and Roland CL. Societal costs of prescription opioid abuse, dependence, and misuse in the United States. Pain Medicine 2011; 12: 657-667.

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