Federal Opioid e-Prescribing Law Passes

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This week President Trump signed into law the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act1. The legislation is aimed at combating the opioid epidemic by focusing on several information technology tools that help prevent prescription fraud and abuse.

One of those tools is e-Prescribing. One of the more than 60 policies included is the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act. Beginning in January 2021, prescribers will be required to electronically prescribe controlled substances for Schedule II-V drugs covered under a Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan. While many states have enacted their own laws requiring e-Prescribing, this is the first federal mandate.

Another tool included in the law is electronic prior authorization. Also by January 2021, electronic prior authorization will be required for Medicare Part D covered drugs. Electronic prescription programs will be required to securely transmit the requests. A facsimile, proprietary payer portal, or an electronic form that does not meet the standards will not be counted as an electronic submission.

The legislation also contains provisions to enhance states’ Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). The goal is to ensure each state has a PDMP, improve their functionality, make sure all prescribers are utilizing the systems, and foster data sharing between states. Beginning October 1, 2021 States must require health care providers to check their PDMP for a Medicaid enrollee's prescription drug history before prescribing controlled substances to the enrollee.

MDToolbox applauds this bipartisan legislation. We are continually encouraging providers to take advantage of the technologies we provide including Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances (EPCS) and Electronic Prior Authorization (e-PA) as they are important tools to use in fighting the devastating opioid epidemic. Putting these federal mandates in place is an important step towards fully utilizing the available technology to save lives. 

 

1. H.R.6 - SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/6

 

Senate Passes Bill Requiring EPCS

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Earlier this week, the United States Senate passed The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. The bill is focused on battling the opioid epidemic and was almost unanimously passed with a 99-1 vote. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths killed an estimated 72,000 Americans in 2017 and the total estimated "economic burden" of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement. The bill provides $3.8 billion in funding.

The bill contains a large number of different proposals from five Senate committees. One of those proposals requires prescribers to electronically prescribe controlled substance prescriptions for Medicare Part-D covered medications. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would be responsible for specifying a list of exceptions and outlining the penalties for failing to comply with the e-prescribing requirement. 

Other provisions in the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 include:

1.       The STOP ACT—to stop illegal drugs, including fentanyl, at the border
2.       New non-addictive painkillers, research and fast-track
3.       Blister packs for opioids, such as a 3 or 7-day supply
4.       More medication–assisted treatment
5.       Prevent “doctor-shopping” by improving state prescription drug monitoring programs
6.       More behavioral and mental health providers
7.       Support for comprehensive opioid recovery centers
8.       Help for babies born in opioid withdrawal
9.       Help for mothers with opioid use disorders
10.     More early intervention with vulnerable children who have experienced trauma

This bill comes after similar legislation passed through the House in June. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman, Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, said he is working to combine the bills "into an even stronger law to fight the nation’s worst public health crisis, and there is a bipartisan sense of urgency to send the bill to the President quickly." A combined version is expected to reach President Donald Trump’s desk for signing by early October.

California Prescribers Required to Check State Database

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Starting October 2, 2018, prescribers in California will be required to check the state’s prescription monitoring database, Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES), before prescribing Schedule II, III, or IV drugs. California is one of 39 states that mandate prescribers to check prescription monitoring databases in an effort to combat the opioid epidemic. By checking a database before prescribing, prescribers can identify “doctor shoppers” who go from doctor to doctor to obtain multiple prescriptions.

Prescribers will now be required to check CURES if it is the first time prescribing the scheduled drug for the patient or if it has been four months since the last time they checked the database for the patient. The check must be completed no earlier than 24 hours or the previous business day prior to the prescribing, ordering, administering or furnishing of a controlled substance to the patient.

All prescribers who were authorized to prescribe or dispense Schedule II-IV controlled substances were originally required to just register to use CURES by July 1, 2016. The requirement to check the database was to start six months after the state certified the database was ready. The California Department of Justice (DOJ) certified CURES was ready for statewide use on April 2, 2018.

If prescribers do not comply, it could result in disciplinary proceedings against a practitioner’s license. The Medical Board of California states in their CURES Mandatory Use FAQs1, “Failing to consult CURES is a violation of the law and it could result in the issuance of a citation and fine, or could be a cause of action In an accusation that leads to disciplinary action. Disciplinary action could be a public reprimand, suspension, probation, or revocation. Each violation of the law is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”

The Medical Board of California also recommends that prescribers either note in the patient’s chart that they checked the CURES database or print the report and put it in the patient’s file to document that the check was completed.

MDToolbox makes it convenient for prescribers to check CURES by providing a link directly to the database from within the prescription writer. The system also automatically makes note that the database was checked for the prescriber. For more information and to request a free trial, see California E-Prescribing or contact us at info@mdtoolbox.com.

 

1. Medical Board of California CURES Mandatory Use FAQs http://www.mbc.ca.gov/Licensees/Prescribing/CURES/CURES_FAQ.pdf?utm_source=link&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=CURES&utm_content=faq

Opioid Commission Recommends Increased Electronic Prescribing

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President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency on October 26, 2017. In his address, Trump called opioids the “worst drug crisis in American history.”

After the President’s declaration, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued its final report1. In the Chairman’s letter written by Governor Chris Christie, he points out that 175 Americans are dying a day from this epidemic. The 131-page report goes on to include more than 50 recommendations.

One of the most prudent recommendations is that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the DEA increase electronic prescribing to prevent diversion and forgery. They also recommend that the DEA revise the Interim Final Rule which lays out the requirements for electronically prescribing controlled substances in order to make registration and using EPCS easier.

Other recommendations include mandatory PDMP checks, the creation of a Department of Justice-led data-sharing hub, and integrated PDMP data in EHRs. The report suggests passing the Prescription Drug Monitoring (PDMP) Act of 2017 which mandates using PDMPs in states that receive federal funding. This Act also directs the Department of Justice (DOJ) to fund the establishment and maintenance of a data-sharing hub so information could be shared across states. The Commission points out that many providers resist using PDMPs because they don’t integrate well into EHRs, so they believe improving these integrations is necessary to increase effectiveness.

While these are great strides in the right direction, there is still a huge issue at hand. Trump did not mention any specific actions the administration will take or how they will be funded. With only declaring it a national public health emergency as opposed to a national emergency, there is not much more funding available. The commission’s report urges Congress and the Administration to block grant federal funding for opioid-related and SUD-related activities to the states. However, the report does not address the amount of funding needed for their recommendations.

1. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images/Final_Report_Draft_11-1-2017.pdf

National PDMP Data Sharing Proposed by White House Commission

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In a draft report, the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis proposed that state and federal prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) should be completely interoperable by July 1, 20181. The White House-appointed commission is led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and is tasked with addressing the national opioid crisis.

The commission proposed several recommendations to President Trump in the report including declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency. Specifically relating to the PDMPs it states, “Provide federal funding and technical support to states to enhance interstate data sharing among state-based prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to better track patient-specific prescription data and support regional law enforcement in cases of controlled substance diversion. Ensure federal health care systems, including Veteran’s Hospitals, participate in state-based data sharing.”

The report states that currently 49 states have PDMPs but many do not share data. As we wrote about earlier, 37 states are connected to NABP PMP InterConnect which is run by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. The commission urged that the VA and HHS should lead the effort to have all state and federal PDMP systems share information.

The report went on to state that PDMPs need to be easy to use and include other data to assist prescribing doctors. Interestingly, the commission said that “ideally, clinician should check their state PDMP before making the decision to prescribe either an opioid or benzodiazepine” but there was no recommendation to make it mandatory for prescribers to check.

The commission’s final report is due in just a couple weeks on October 1st and it’s expected to include several other recommendations related to health IT.

 

1.  https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/ondcp/commission-interim-report.pdf