As the opioid epidemic continues to take American lives, state and federal government entities are taking notice and taking action.
Standing in front of the joint session of Congress, President Trump vowed to end America’s “terrible drug epidemic.” The same week, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed legislation to mandate statewide electronic prescribing of controlled substances by 2020.
The legislation, along with the Executive’s mention of the devastating problem, signals an emerging trend: state and federal government officials are taking action against opioid addiction and are using EPCS as a vehicle to curb the rising death toll.
Opioid Addiction & EPCS
The focus on America’s growing opioid addiction problem is well-warranted. Recent Centers for Disease Control figures show that more than 15,000 Americans die from prescription opioid overdose every year. Opioids are a class of controlled substance commonly prescribed to control pain, selling under brand names like Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Perocet. In the last decade of data, the CDC reported prescriptions for these types of medications rose by more than 188%. Electronic prescribing of these controlled substances allows pharmacies to track individual medication histories, in combination with state prescription drug monitoring programs. Using a system that documents every time a patient fills an opioid script, regardless of the pharmacy, providers can curb addiction-related practices like “doctor shopping.”
The new Virginia legislation comes on the heels of Gov. McAuliffe declaring the opioid addiction crisis a Virginia public health emergency in Nov. 2016. Along with the bill mandating EPCS by 2020, Gov. McAuliffe signed three other bills to better equip Virginia communities fighting addiction. These include policies that: 1) Allow community organizations to possess and dispense a drug that reduces the effects of opioid medications; 2) Allow health departments to create harm-reduction programs that would provide clean syringes, access to addiction treatment, and testing for addiction-related disease; and 3) Create family assessments and care plans for babies exposed to controlled substances in utero, along with assisting their mothers.
Predicting Future Mandates
Virginia joins New York, Minnesota, and Maine in mandating EPCS. New York, a leader in health care policy, claims tremendous success in requiring EPCS and PDMP checks before prescribing opioids. The action resulted in a 75% decrease in individuals “doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions. As these efforts continue to show success, experts predict more statewide policy changes. In March 2017, for example, Pennsylvania began considering similar legislation. As more states add EPCS regulations, vendors can lead the way by providing avenues for hospitals and clinics to achieve compliance.
To learn more about leading EPCS + PDMP adoption in your health care community, click here to start a conversation with DrFirst.
To learn more about the Virginia Legislation, click here.