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Bipartisan Senate Bill Seeks to Fight Opioid Abuse with E-Prescribing


"An epidemic of this magnitude requires us to address all aspects of the problem."

opioid crisis, electronic prescribing, interoperability, EPCS Act, opioid e-prescribing, CMS data opioids

A group of 4 senators—2 Democrats and 2 Republicans—introduced legislation this week that would require controlled substances to be prescribed electronically to receive Medicare Part D reimbursement. The Every Prescription Conveyed Securely (EPCS) Act aims to stymy fraudulent prescriptions and “doctor shopping” that contribute to the flow of opioids.

In January, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report stating that “[Center for Medicare and Medicaid Cervices] is lacking information that it could use to assess how opioid prescribing patterns are changing over time, and whether its efforts to reduce harm are effective.” The new act, which would take effect in 2020, could potentially address some of those deficiencies by generating real-time information on the frequency and origin of prescriptions for oft-abused drugs.

“We need to be using every tool at our disposal to fight the opioid epidemic,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said in a statement. “I’m glad to partner with [Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)] on a bipartisan bill that will help gather better data on the opioid epidemic while also helping health care providers make the best decisions for their patients.”

The 2 Republican senators cosigning the legislation are Dean Heller of Nevada and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. In the statement, Toomey called the proposed legislation “a simple but important step in the direction of curbing opioid abuse.”

“An epidemic of this magnitude requires us to address all aspects of the problem, starting with how providers prescribe opioids,” Bennet said in the statement. “Coloradans deserve action from Congress, and this bipartisan legislation would expand a critical tool to track the use of opioids, ultimately reducing overdoses and saving lives.”

The EPCS Act would create a series of exceptions. Prescriptions generated and dispensed by the same entity would not be subject, and organizations could request an exception if they could demonstrate “economic hardship, technological limitations that are not reasonably within the control of the practitioner, or other exceptional circumstance.” Other exempt scenarios include prescriptions issued under research protocol and situations in which a physician determines that an electronic prescription cannot be made in a timely manner.

Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) in July. That bill enjoys wide bipartisan support, with 21 cosponsoring representatives: 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

Related Coverage:

To Fight Opioid Abuse, Report Says CMS Will Need More Data

Rise of the Anti-Opioid Algorithm

How a Pennsylvania Insurer Aims to Use Big Data Against Opioids

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