Vermont on August 28 became the 50th state to legalize electronic prescribing of controlled substances, making the practice available nationwide.
However, while 78 percent of pharmacies can accept e-scripts for controlled substances, only 2 percent of physicians electronically prescribe for these schedule II-V narcotics, according to SureScripts, which operates a nationwide electronic prescribing network.
The vendor has a website that walks through procedures for small/solo practices and delivery systems to assess the readiness of an electronic health record to support e-prescribing of controlled substances, registering to be a prescriber and proving identification, assessing and implementing the necessary two-factor authentication, and setting secure access controls. Also available is comprehensive guidance from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
While e-scripts for controlled substances now are permitted across the 50 states, some states continue to grapple with related issues.
New York recently delayed until March 2016 enforcement of a law mandating providers to electronically prescribe all prescriptions, including controlled substances. The action was necessary because of delays in Drug Enforcement Administration certification of pharmacy and electronic health record vendors’ handling of scripts for controlled substances.
Mandated e-prescribing in New York is part of the state’s I-STOP law passed in 2012 to track prescription drugs, improve drug distribution processes to thwart abuse, develop medical and consumer education programs and create a safe drug disposal program.
Utah in early 2015 enacted legislation to require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before access the state’s controlled substance database. State lawmakers did not look kindly upon police searching the database up to 11,000 times a year in what Sen. Todd Weiler, sponsor of the law, called “fishing expeditions” to find individuals to prosecute. Police chiefs countered that the database is used for pre-employment background checks, to get drug histories of persons arrested for drug offenses, and to aid investigations into doc-shopping for prescriptions.
In July, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration was considering litigation against the law, contending the agency should have access to the database with an administrative subpoena it can issue itself without judicial review. A DEA official had demanded records, the administrator of the database refused and the state attorney general supported the administrator.
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