Senate Bill Mandates e-Prescriptions to Fight Opioid Crisis

March 1, 2018
A group of senators have introduced the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely (EPCS) Act to combat opioid overdoses by requiring electronic prescriptions for controlled substances under Medicare.

U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) have introduced the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely (EPCS) Act to combat opioid overdoses by requiring electronic prescriptions for controlled substances under Medicare.

In 2016, more than 42,000 Americans lost their lives from opioid drug overdoses, including from prescription painkillers. A Department of Justice report found that misused prescription opioids are often obtained illegally using forged or altered prescriptions and by consulting multiple doctors (“doctor shopping”). The report also determined that most prescription fraud remains undetected.

As such, the EPCS Act aims to reduce the number of opioids obtained through fraudulent prescriptions or doctor shopping. The legislation would direct healthcare providers to use electronic prescribing for controlled substances for Medicare Part D transactions beginning in 2020. “Electronic prescriptions would generate real-time information on opioid use and streamline the prescription process for both providers and their patients,” the senators said in an announcement.

Companion legislation, H.R. 3528, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK).

“Drug overdoses claim the lives of hundreds of Nevadans each year, which is why it is critical that we do everything that we can to stop the opioid epidemic from touching one more family,” Sen. Heller said in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation takes a critical step toward eliminating doctor shopping and duplicative or fraudulent prescriptions. I appreciate the Administration’s engagement on this issue, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass solutions to address the opioid crisis that continues to rip through communities in Nevada and around the country.”

“We need to be using every tool at our disposal to fight the opioid epidemic,” Sen. Warren added. “I’m glad to partner with Senator Bennet on a bipartisan bill that will help gather better data on the opioid epidemic while also helping healthcare providers make the best decisions for their patients.”

Meanwhile, another group of senators yesterday also introduced legislation addressing the opioid epidemic, which serves as a follow-up bill to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) signed into law in 2016.

According to a report in The Hill, “The bipartisan bill includes some measures similar to those removed from the original CARA bill passed in 2016, such as an initiative to bolster youth recovery support services and a provision requiring physicians and pharmacists to use their state prescription drug monitoring program [PDMP] before prescribing or dispensing opioids.”

PDMPs are tools for healthcare providers to see patients’ prescribing histories to inform their prescribing decisions. Since their inception, PDMPs have proven to be effective in combating prescription drug abuse, misuse, and abuse on a local level. However, the issue of interstate data sharing was an often-cited priority that was not addressed.

Added Politico in its Morning eHealth newsletter, about the legislation, “There's a bit of PDMP language, requiring physicians and pharmacists to use the databases when prescribing or using opioids.” Politico’s newsletter went on to note that the bill “requires state PDMPs to share data but doesn't have clear criteria for judging whether such data is shared.”

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