Can e-Prescribing Help Alleviate the Opioid Epidemic?

It’s difficult to find a part of the United States that hasn’t been touched by the opioid addiction epidemic. According to the most recent available Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, more than 33,000 people died of opioid overdoses (either prescription drugs or heroin) in 2015. What’s more, each day approximately 91 Americans die of opioid overdoses. Now, two lawmakers are seeking to broaden the use of electronic prescribing as a way to combat duplicative prescribing, which is a significant overdose risk factor. As Fierce Healthcare first reported, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) have introduced the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely (EPCS) Act. “Modernizing public health practices to include electronic prescriptions will curb the overprescribing of opioids, eliminate the costs and inefficiencies of paperwork, and strengthen communication between doctors and patients,” Clark said in a statement. “Congress should come together to pass this commonsense solution to prevent overdoses and save lives.”

The legislation would require all Medicare providers to utilize e-prescribing when writing prescriptions for controlled substances. Currently, per Fierce Healthcare, only one state (New York) officially requires it. Said Mullin, “We need to ensure that patients are receiving opioids only when absolutely necessary and take precautionary measures to prohibit them from falling into the wrong hands.” He added that his and Clark’s legislation “aims to close a dangerous loophole that has been fueling the problem of excessively prescribed opioids.” The EPCS Act has already earned the endorsement of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

The bill’s introduction comes shortly after President Donald Trump officially declared the opioid epidemic to be a national emergency. “Building upon the recommendations in the interim report from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, President Donald J. Trump has instructed his Administration to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic,” a White House statement issued last week read. As of now, however, it is unclear what additional resources will be made available following that declaration. Fierce Healthcare notes that some have criticized the Trump Administration for not doing enough to combat the opioid epidemic, despite campaign promises to do so.

Click here to read the Fierce Healthcare article on the EPCS Act.

Click here to read a press release from Rep. Clark and Rep. Mullin on the EPCS Act.

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