November 17, 2011
The battle against prescription drug addiction is never ending, and one that has been dominating the war against drugs for some time. But, technological advances in e-prescribing, including enhancements to security and privacy, have begun to make the battle a little less one sided.
In fact, the DEA has finally given approval for controlled substances to be submitted to pharmacies via electronic transmissions. And DrFirst has announced the release of the first and only e-prescribing system for controlled substances, the EPCS Gold TM 2.0.
A National Concern
Prescription drug addiction is not new. In recent reports released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 7 million Americans are addicted to prescription medications. In 2007, about 28,000 people died from drug overdoses, most of which were accidental and related to prescription drugs.
The daunting question and one without a lot of answers: How do we combat the staggering statistics?
In a CNN article published in April 2011, White House Director of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske said, “The toll our nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic has taken in communities nationwide is devastating. We share a responsibility to protect our communities from the damage done by prescription drug abuse.”
Several states have already instituted drug databases, helping the fight against prescription abuse. These databases register patients by medical record number and keep track of the last prescription filled by that particular patient, hoping to lessen the opportunities for so-called “drug shopping” and identifying those who may be addicted.
The problem with some of these databases is that there is a delay between when the prescription is dispensed and when the list is updated. Although the time frame is small, it allows a small window during which multiple prescriptions can be filled.
The benefits of e-prescribing have been self-evident. The chance of human error is lessened and the chance of forgery nearly eliminated. But, until the release of the EPCS Gold TM 2.0, it was not an option for some of the most dangerous medications to be electronically prescribed.
Using systems like the EPCS Gold TM 2.0, the hand-written, illegible prescription is eliminated. Not only does this ensures accurate drug dispensing and lessens the risk of forgery, but it also institutes road blocks for those who doctor shop or pharmacy hop.
The stand-alone system, which has been certified by the DEA and utilizes the Surescripts network, allows physicians to transmit prescriptions for controlled substances directly to participating pharmacies. Providers must go through a two-stage authentication before being able to complete the transaction, ensuring that only certified physicians are authorizing the prescription.
With EPCS Gold TM 2.0, physicians can pull a robust medication history from the past two years of a patient’s record and check against current and past medications for drug/drug and drug/allergy interactions. The system could potentially flag those patients who are at highest risk for abuse and alerting if patients have visited several physicians or pharmacies in search of similar treatments.
The most commonly abused prescription drugs should be included among those that can be prescribed through the EPCS Gold TM 2.0. However, it is up to the individual states to mandate which controlled substances can be electronically prescribed.
Currently 20% of written prescriptions are for controlled substances, which mean 20% of physicians have not fully received the benefits of e-prescribing to allow them to make an informed decision when it comes to increased patient care. In addition to all the benefits listed above, the platform also provides audit abilities, ensuring compliance and regulation.
The war is not over, but the artillery is getting bigger, stronger and faster. Implementation of systems like the EPCS Gold TM 2.0 will help. But will it be enough?
Do you think the EPCS Gold TM 2.0 will help combat prescription drug abuse?