An online initiative designed to reduce prescription drug abuse is beginning to gain steam after launching in 2010, according to The Washington Post.
The initiative, called Electronic Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS), is a rule by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that allows pharmacies and care providers to handle prescriptions for controlled substances that are designated Schedule II-V entirely online. The program is voluntary.
Schedule II drugs include oxycodone and fentanyl. The DEA recently announced it will reclassify hydrocodone combination products such as Vicodin from Schedule III to Schedule II.
The system reduces reliance on paper prescriptions, which decreases the risk of forged prescriptions, the article notes. The system also generates information that allows doctors and pharmacies to identify potential cases of drug misuse.
New York launched a new online prescribing system last summer, which helped identify 200 incidents of "doctor shopping" in the first three days, according to the newspaper.
The launch of EPCS has been slow for several reasons. States have had to change their laws to align with the DEA rule, and had to ensure the prescribing networks were secure. In the past year, electronic prescriptions for controlled substances have started to increase, according to data from DrFirst, a vendor of EPCS technology.
The number of EPCS transactions increased from about 11,000 in January 2013 to 60,000 in July 2014.
Surescripts, the company that operates the largest e-prescribing network, found as of August, 50 percent of pharmacies were able to electronically prescribe controlled substances, up from around 40 percent at the end of 2013. Implementation of the program has been uneven, ranging from 74 percent of pharmacies in Delaware to 15 percent in North Dakota.
Starting in March, New York will be the first state to require controlled substances to be prescribed electronically.