Lawmakers advocate for mandated e-prescribing as the opioid epidemic becomes a national emergency

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Lawmakers are pushing to establish an e-prescribing mandate for Medicare Part D controlled substances.

Representatives from Massachusetts and Oklahoma are urging Congress to pass a bill that would mandate electronic prescribing for any provider participating in Medicare, arguing the requirement is a necessary step to curb opioid abuse.

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., say the move would reduce the number of duplicative opioid prescriptions. The two lawmakers have sponsored the “Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act” that would require healthcare practitioners to e-prescribe controlled substances covered under Medicare Part D by 2020. The bill is backed by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. 

“Modernizing public health practices to include electronic prescriptions will curb the over-prescribing of opioids, eliminate the costs and inefficiencies of paperwork, and strengthen communication between doctors and patients,” Clark said in a release last week. “Congress should come together to pass this common sense solution to prevent overdoses and save lives.”

Mullin added that the legislation “aims to close a dangerous loophole that has been fueling the problem of excessively prescribed opioids.”

Last week, the White House initially stopped short of escalating the fight against opioid abuse, declining to designate the epidemic a national emergency. But on Thursday, President Donald Trump reversed course, indicating his administration was drafting an order. Two days earlier, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said the administration had the necessary resources without declaring a national emergency.

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A recent report by SureScripts indicates that e-prescribing of controlled substances increased 256% between 2015 and 2016, but a state-by-state analysis of e-prescribing by the Center for Data Innovation shows the percentage of controlled substances is well below 10% in the vast majority of states.

Just one state—New York—has mandated e-prescribing. Connecticut is poised to become the second state in the country to mandate controlled substance e-prescribing thanks to new state legislation that will roll out the new requirement in 2018.