Back on September 13, 2009 I wrote a post titled, “FDA Approves Pilot Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances.” I’d link to the post, but unfortunately the news got sent to me prematurely and so I had to take the post down. It was unfortunate, since there was and still is a lot of interest in being able to ePrescribe controlled substances. In fact, I’d say that not being able to prescribe controlled substances electronically is the current Achilles heal of ePrescribing.
Fast forward to the recent announcement that DrFirst’s announcement of the Nationwide Launch of their ePrescribing Controlled Substances product. Their latest ePrescribing product for controlled substances is called EPCS Gold and is fully certified to meet the prescription processing requirements for Surescripts, the DEA’s requirements in the Interim final rule, and the Identify Proofing requirements set by NIST.
I’m really glad to see ePrescribing of controlled substances moving forward. This will make ePrescribing much more attractive to physicians. Especially physicians that regularly prescribe controlled substances like surgeons and pain doctors.
However, this controlled substance ePrescribing announcement does of course come with it’s limitations. I think they’re described well in this part of the press release:
Prescribers enrolling for EPCS Gold™ will be able to send controlled substance prescriptions electronically after a simple credentialing and identity-proofing process with DrFirst. After providers are certified, they can begin e-prescribing Schedule II-V drugs based on their individual state laws and the ability of the receiving pharmacy to meet the DEA’s requirements to process these prescriptions. To avoid any confusion and eliminate guesswork by providers, EPCS Gold™ automatically detects which substances can be sent electronically.
The two challenges are quite clear: state laws and pharmacy ability to meet the DEA’s requirements. I haven’t done any in depth research on either subject, but I have a feeling that both of these things will be major issues across the country. I’d like to think it won’t be, but knowing the pace of state legislation and pharmacy adoption of these standards I’m not hopeful that they’re ready to receive controlled substance prescriptions electronically.
However, the above step is an important one. You have to have all sides ready to handle the security required to make ePrescribing controlled substances a reality. This is the first step and a very good one.