Government proposal could allow e-Rx of controlled substances

June 30, 2008

U.S. drug regulators are said to be close to allowing doctors to e-prescribe addictive medications, including painkillers. According to Reuters, the Drug Enforcement Administration is expected to publish a proposal on e-prescribing controlled substances.

U.S. drug regulators are said to be close to allowing doctors to e-prescribe addictive medications, including painkillers. According to Reuters, the Drug Enforcement Administration is expected to publish a proposal on e-prescribing controlled substances.

Currently, physicians can send only nonscheduled prescriptions electronically to dispensing pharmacies. According to the National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative, currently less than 20% of the nation’s 550,000 practicing physicians transmit prescriptions electronically.

“E-prescribing has been shown to reduce errors commonly seen in prescribing and dispensing of medications written on paper,” says Ruth Ann C. Opdycke, PharmD, MS, president of TPG Healthcare Consulting LLC, in Glastonbury, Conn. “Physicians typically site cost, time and uncertainty about which pharmacies accept electronic prescriptions as barriers to using e-prescribing technology. From a time perspective, the impact on traditional physician office workflow patterns complicated by the current restriction on e-prescribing of scheduled substances, creates another barrier for physicians to readily adopt e-prescribing across the board. Taking away the restriction on scheduled substances removes a barrier to workflow issues and time.”

There is some concern that patients are more likely to abuse these addictive medications.

But according to Opdycke, in contrast, the rule will more than likely include security requirements to ensure the legitimacy of scheduled prescriptions. “Furthermore, e-prescribing is perhaps more secure than the current paper-based prescribing model,” she says. “To access e-prescribing, the prescriber must have a validated password and additional security clearances can be established. In addition, e-prescribing leaves an immediate electronic trail of all prescriptions, prescribers, patients and dispensing pharmacies. This is not the case for traditional paper prescriptions.

“Managed care executives need to look at this as an additional tool that can be used to better monitor the use of prescription medications across the board,” Opdycke continues. “They need to allocate the appropriate resources in house to leverage the richness of the data and e-prescribing technology from all angles-quality, improved patient outcomes, cost and identifying and addressing potential prescription fraud.”