How e-prescribing could be the main tool in fighting opioid abuse

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Until recently, providers were prohibited from electronically prescribing controlled substances, but requiring electronic prescriptions for these drugs could be the key to fight opioid abuse.

In a policy paper for the National Center for Policy Analysis, Devon Herrick, PhD, argues electronic prescriptions for controlled substances will enable improved tracking and control of opioids being dispensed from pharmacies, and ultimately bring down the rate of opioid abuse.

Currently, all 50 states permit electronic prescribing of controlled substances, but just three — New York, Minnesota and Maine — require providers to submit these prescriptions electronically.

Dr. Herrick writes electronic prescriptions prevent drug diversion and prescriber shopping, where patients receive multiple scripts for opioids from multiple physicians who may be unaware that the patient already has a prescription from someone else.

"Mandatory e-prescribing of controlled substances adds electronic checks and balances to an existing system," Dr. Herrick writes, mentioning how databases can track prescriptions and alert providers if their patient is refilling prescriptions excessively or has submitted multiple scripts for opioids.

However, obstacles to mandatory electronic prescriptions do remain, such as software that meets the Drug Enforcement Administration regulations like two-factor authentication and adoption of required technology, especially by smaller, independent pharmacies, according to the paper.

"Mandatory electronic prescribing with tracking of controlled substances is a solution that policymakers should consider," Dr. Herrick concludes.

More articles on opioids:

Opioid epidemic funds are center of dispute in Congress 
Pfizer agrees to acknowledge addiction risks in opioid marketing 
HHS improves access to opioid addiction treatment with new actions to fight opioid abuse

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