CMS, VA to share data on prescriptions for veterans

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs are joining forces to better track medications, including opioids, prescribed to veterans outside of the VA.

The two agencies have established a drug safety surveillance agreement giving the VA the ability to monitor medical prescriptions issued to veterans through Medicare Part D.

According to a joint announcement, this new arrangement will enable the VA to access up-to-date CMS prescription data about the medications used by veterans who are enrolled in both the VA’s health system and Medicare.

“VA is committed to patient safety, and our robust medication surveillance systems are part of that commitment,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a written statement. “This agreement greatly enhances medication safety for veterans by providing better oversight of drugs that veterans may be able to obtain from both agencies.”

VA sec nominee.jpg
Robert Wilkie, secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. The VA has lacked a permanent leader since David Shulkin was ousted as secretary in March and Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson withdrew in April, following allegations of improper behavior in his role as White House physician. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

Also See: VA uses IT to help post opioid prescribing rates for facilities

Veterans who receive dual prescriptions from the VA and CMS are at risk for adverse drug interactions, duplication of use, as well as greater risk of adverse drug events, including overdoses, according to the agencies.

“This agreement represents a new level of information sharing between VA and CMS, which will improve care coordination and better protect our beneficiaries,” says Kimberly Brandt, CMS principal deputy administrator for operations and policy. “Leveraging data is a key element of CMS’ efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and we look forward to continued collaboration with VA on this important issue.”

A study published last month in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that more than half of enrollees in the VA health system are also covered by Medicare and can choose to receive their prescriptions from VA or from Medicare-participating providers.

“Such dual-system care may lead to unsafe opioid use if providers in these two systems do not coordinate care or if prescription use is not tracked between systems,” concluded the study’s authors, who evaluated the risks of opioid-related adverse events and overdose among veterans receiving dual prescriptions through VA and CMS.

They found that dual use of opioid prescriptions was independently associated with death from prescription opioid overdose among veterans enrolled in VA and Medicare Part D.

“This risk factor for fatal overdose among veterans underscores the importance of care coordination across healthcare systems to improve opioid prescribing safety,” the authors concluded.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.