Walmart to Limit Opioid Prescriptions and Require EPCS

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Walmart recently announced they will be implementing two new policies aimed at combating opioid abuse1. They include:

  • Restrict initial acute opioid prescriptions to no more than a seven-day supply, with up to a 50 morphine milligram equivalent maximum per day
  • Require e-prescriptions for controlled substances (EPCS)

The policies will apply to all Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies in the United States and Puerto Rico. The 7-day limit policy is set to be enforced within the next 60 days. The EPCS requirement will not go into place until January 1, 2020 but it is an important piece since electronic prescriptions prevent fraud and minimize errors.

While many states have either already implemented or are in the process of implementing laws to limit opioids and require EPCS, this is the first large pharmacy chain we have seen implement such measures. Some states limit opioid prescriptions to fewer than 7 days in which case they will default to the state law.

“We are taking action in the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic,” said Marybeth Hays, executive vice president of Health & Wellness and Consumables, Walmart U.S. “We are proud to implement these policies and initiatives as we work to create solutions that address this critical issue facing the patients and communities we serve.”

Walmart also plans to give access to the controlled substance tool, Narxcare, to all pharmacists, provide naloxone recommendations for patients at risk of overdose, and have additional trainings and education on opioid stewardship by the end of this summer.

At MDToolbox, we agree that these are all important measures to take in the fight against the opioid epidemic. We continually urge prescribers not to wait for such policies to be enacted and to start e-Prescribing controlled substances as soon as possible. Find out more about EPCS or contact us for a demo to see how easy it is to implement.

1. https://news.walmart.com/2018/05/07/walmart-introduces-additional-measures-to-help-curb-opioid-abuse-and-misuse

Electronic Prescription Directions Vary Greatly in Content and Quality

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Electronic prescriptions allow for providers to enter any free-text directions (Sig) they wish, just as if they were writing a paper prescription. The patient directions are one of the most critical parts of a prescription. It’s a huge safety risk if patients do not understand how to use their prescription or if a pharmacist has to try to interpret what the provider means. In a recent study that analyzed 25,000 electronic prescriptions issued by 22,152 community-based prescribers using 501 e-prescribing software applications, it was found that there was a large number of variations in the electronic prescription directions1. The quality of the directions also varied greatly.

The study was conducted by Yuze Yang, PharmD, from Surescripts and colleagues, and published online in the Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy. Out of the 25,000 e-prescriptions, there were 3,797 unique Sigs concepts identified in the Sig text strings. However, more than half of all patient directions could be classified into just 25 unique Sig concepts. There were large numbers of variation of even what would be considered simple and straightforward directions found. For example, over 800 permutations of words and phrases used to convey "take one tablet by mouth once daily" were identified.

The researchers not only looked at the variations, they also analyzed the Sig text strings for quality-related events which were defined as “Sig text content that could impair accurate and unambiguous interpretation by staff at receiving pharmacies.” The biggest quality issue observed was incomplete Sigs. Prescriptions were commonly missing relevant dosages or administration frequency/timing information. They found that more than one in ten prescriptions contained some sort of quality issue.  Considering the number of electronic prescriptions that are sent and the not only time-wasting potential but possibly catastrophic results that could come from such quality issues, that figure is way too high.

The authors' recommendations for reducing the quality issues and variations include:

  • Enhancing e-prescribing application user interfaces and Sig creation tools
  • Improving end-user training and usability testing for optimal use of system functionalities
  • Adopting and implementing the currently available Structured and Codified Sig format by both prescriber and pharmacy systems to facilitate improved standardization and interoperability

At MDToolbox, patient safety and ease of use for prescribers are two of our main focuses when designing our directions input fields. We offer several options designed to make entering quality directions as easy as possible:

  • Sig builder – build complete directions in just a few easy clicks
  • Common Sigs – choose from the most commonly used Sigs already available in the system
  • Saved favorite directions – prescribers can enter directions that they commonly use and save them as a favorite with a shortcut that can be quickly accessed
  • Free-text directions – although free-text directions open it up to possible quality errors, MDToolbox has implemented quality checkers to ensure that free-text directions are not missing any of the information the contributes to many of the quality issues such as “how much” or “how often” the prescription should be used.

MDToolbox is also constantly looking for ways like our quality checkers to enhance these areas even more. Part of the way we do this is by conducting usability tests and end-user trainings in order to get feedback from users and ensure users are taking advantage of the available tools. We share a goal with Surescripts to have zero-error e-prescribing and are continually striving towards this goal.

 

  1. Quality and Variability of Patient Directions in Electronic Prescriptions in the Ambulatory Care Setting https://www.jmcp.org/doi/10.18553/jmcp.2018.17404 

Mandated Nationwide E-Prescribing of Controlled Substances Proposed in Bipartisan Senate Bill

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Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely (EPCS) Act. Under the act, all controlled substance prescriptions under Medicare would have to be sent electronically. The aim of the bill is to combat the opioid epidemic by preventing fraudulent prescriptions and doctor shopping.

The legislation was introduced by four senators: Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts; Michael Bennet, D-Colorado; Dean Heller, R-Nevada, and Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania.

As we wrote about previously, companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives in July by Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA). House bill 35281 has a lot of bipartisan support with 21 cosponsoring representatives including 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

“We need to be using every tool at our disposal to fight the opioid epidemic,” Warren said in a statement2. “I’m glad to partner with Senator Bennet 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.”

A Department of Justice report recently released found that misused prescription opioids are often obtained illegally using forged or altered prescriptions and by consulting multiple doctors. It was also found that most prescription fraud remains undetected.

“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. "This bipartisan legislation would expand a critical tool to track the use of opioids, ultimately reducing overdoses and saving lives."

Toomey added to the statement, “This commonsense measure will help improve tracking of opioid prescribing and reduce diversion due to forged prescriptions. This is a simple but important step in the direction of curbing opioid abuse.” Heller further added by stating, “This bipartisan legislation takes a critical step toward eliminating doctor shopping and duplicative or fraudulent prescriptions.”

The bill is proposed to go into effect in 2020 and does allow for some exceptions. These include prescriptions generated and dispensed by the same entity, economic hardship, technological limitations and other exceptional circumstances.

At MDToolbox, we strongly encourage all providers to not wait for legislation and to take advantage of the benefits of e-Prescribing controlled substances as soon as possible. It not only prevents fraud but makes things easier for prescribers as well. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about getting started with EPCS and offer a free 30 day trial so that you can see how quick and easy it is.

 

1.       H.R.3528 - Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3528
2.       Warren, Bennet, Heller, Toomey Introduce Bill to Combat Opioid Crisis with E-Prescriptions https://www.warren.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/warren-bennet-heller-toomey-introduce-bill-to-combat-opioid-crisis-with-e-prescriptions

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

Forwarding Unfilled Electronic Prescriptions for Controlled Substances

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The pharmacy protocol for forwarding unfilled e-Prescribed controlled substance prescriptions was recently clarified by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The DEA has specified that if for any reason one pharmacy cannot fill the original controlled substance e-Prescription, it may be forwarded to another DEA-registered pharmacy. This was clarified by the DEA’s associate section chief of the liaison and policy section of the DEA’s Diversion Control division Loren Miller in an email to National Association of Boards of Pharmacy CEO Carmen Catizone1.

The email states, “As posted in the preambles of the [notice of proposed rulemaking] and the [interim final rule], an unfilled original EPCS prescription can be forwarded from one DEA registered retail pharmacy to another DEA registered retail pharmacy, and this includes Schedule II controlled substances.”

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) had contacted the DEA for clarification on the issue in May and applauded the response that was received.2 “Simply put, this guidance encourages the use of electronic prescribing for controlled substances, and removes a substantial barrier to doing so,” NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson, IOM, CAE said. “Electronic prescribing has significant advantages over other forms of transmitting a prescription because it reduces opportunities for fraud and abuse. NACDS is unwavering in its commitment to working with all parties to help find and implement solutions to opioid issues, while providing appropriate patient care. This has been, and remains, a top priority of NACDS, and we appreciate the DEA's action on this guidance, which we consider to be entirely consistent with patient care and with the proper handling of controlled substances.”

This is an important clarification that benefits both patients and prescribers by streamlining the process. It eliminates the need for a pharmacist to call the prescriber for a new prescription if it needs to be sent to a different pharmacy. This makes it quicker for patients to receive the medications they need and makes less work for the prescribers. This helps encourage prescribers to e-Prescribe which in turn improves prescription safety and prevents fraud and abuse.

 

1. http://www.ncbop.org/PDF/LMillerDEAGuidanceTransferofOnFileCSPrescriptions.pdf

2. NACDS Applauds DEA Guidance on Forwarding of Electronic Prescriptions for Controlled Substances  

https://www.nacds.org/news/nacds-applauds-dea-guidance-on-forwarding-of-electronic-prescriptions-for-controlled-substances/

Study Shows e-Prescriptions Aid in Best Practices for Opioid Prescribing

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 E-Prescriptions Safer than Hand Written

Implementing ways to fight the national opioid epidemic is at the forefront of many states’ legislative sessions.  As we’ve mentioned in several previous posts, a growing number of states are fighting the epidemic by requiring prescribers to electronically prescribe these controlled substances. A new study published by the Journal of Opioid Management shows that these lawmakers are on the right track. And it’s more than just increasing legibility and preventing prescription fraud.

Researchers from John Hopkins University analyzed 510 prescriptions for opioids looking for errors, discrepancies, and variations from ideal practice1. The study included both handwritten and electronically generated prescriptions filled at an outpatient pharmacy. An alarming 89% of handwritten prescriptions contained errors. What’s more is that 41% of those prescriptions were noncompliant with DEA rules. Overall, 92% of handwritten prescriptions failed to meet ideal practice standards, contained errors, or were noncompliant with DEA rules.

In contrast, none of the EHR computer-generated prescriptions contained errors and all of them were fully compliant with DEA rules. Electronic prescriptions are written using standard templates where most of the time the software will not even allow a prescriber to save the prescription without including necessary information such as the date, amount, and at least two patient identifiers. The software also aids in making sure any additional DEA rules and best practices are being followed.

The opioid epidemic needs to be tackled from several angles, including making sure the prescriptions that are being provided are accurate and safe for patients. Patient safety needs to be a top priority and prescribers need to make use of the tools available to aid them in following best practices and ensuring all DEA rules are abided by. Electronically prescribing has been shown time and time again to be a powerful resource. For more information on how to get started with e-Prescribing, contact us at info@mdtoolbox.com or 206-331-4420. 

 

  1.  An analysis of errors, discrepancies, and variation in opioid prescriptions for adult outpatients at a teaching hospital http://www.wmpllc.org/ojs-2.4.2/index.php/jom/article/view/556

E-Prescribing Growth Continues to Soar

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E-Prescribing makes the prescribing process easier and safer for patients, prescribers, and pharmacists alike, so it comes as no surprise that e-Prescribing rates continue to surge each year. Surescripts recently released its 2016 National Progress Report1 detailing the e-Prescribing growth they’ve seen on their network.

A total of 1.6 billion e-prescriptions were sent in 2016, up 12% from 1.4 billion in 2015. This accounts for 73% of all prescriptions being sent electronically.

The rates for e-Prescribing of Controlled Substances (EPCS) saw one of the biggest increases with a 256% jump from 2015. There were 45.3 million e-prescriptions for controlled substances sent in 2016 as compared to only 12.8 million in 2015. Part of this increase can be attributed to states such as New York, Minnesota and soon to be Maine mandating that all controlled substances be sent electronically.

The mandate helped New York be ranked number 1 in the Surescripts report with 72.1% of prescribers enabled for EPCS, 98.1% of pharmacies enabled, and 91.9% of controlled substances prescribed electronically. Minnesota, who doesn’t enforce their mandate, was ranked number 7 with 14.3% of prescribers enabled for EPCS, 93.8% of pharmacies enabled, and 19.8% of controlled substances prescribed electronically.

States are putting these mandates in place in an effort to combat substance abuse and increase patient safety. With software, like MDToolbox-Rx, incorporating EPCS into the existing e-Prescribing workflows, it really leaves little reason for those prescribers who are already e-Prescribing not to electronically prescribe controlled substances as well.

The ability to access patient medication histories electronically at the point of prescribing also plays an important role in patient safety. It allows prescribers the ability to see a more complete history and avoid adverse drug events. The amount of providers accessing medical histories on the Surescripts network also increased in 2016. More than 1.08 billion medication histories were accessed.

2016 also saw a 22% increase in the number of healthcare professional connected to the Surescripts network with 1.3 million healthcare professionals connecting. However, although the number of prescribers connected increased by 7%, it’s somewhat surprising that 36% of prescribers are still not connected. We are confident that the number of prescribers who connect will continue to increase though, as prescribers continue to realize the value of e-Prescribing and the ease of use provided by software like MDToolbox-Rx.

 

1. Surescripts 2016 National Progress Report http://surescripts.com/news-center/national-progress-report-2016/

Connecticut Mandates e-Prescribing of Controlled Substances

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Connecticut just passed Public Act No. 17-1311 which mandates that prescribers must electronically prescribe controlled substances by January 1, 2018. The legislation was unanimously passed.

The law was originally proposed by Governor Dannel Malloy in an effort to combat opioid abuse and addiction. By requiring controlled substances prescriptions to be sent electronically, it allows the prescriptions to be tracked and prevents fraud from forged or stolen paper prescriptions.

The law also increases the ability of state agencies to share data on opioid abuse, as well as allows patients to insert a form in their medical records refusing to be prescribed opioids.

Most pharmacies appear ready, but it’s going to be a change for the majority of prescribers in the state. According to Surescripts’ EPCS State Readiness page2, 96.7% of pharmacies are enabled for e-Prescribing of controlled substances in Connecticut, but only 5% of prescribers are currently enabled. Surescripts National Progress Report also showed that in 2016 only 6% of controlled substances were prescribed electronically in Connecticut.

Connecticut is the fourth state to enact a mandate requiring electronic prescriptions for controlled substances (EPCS). Minnesota, New York, and Maine were the first three states to pass similar laws. Several other states are considering similar legislation as well.

We are pleased that many states have seen the benefits of EPCS and are taking action to combat the ever growing opioid crisis in our nation with this important tool. Find out more about EPCS and start e-Prescribing controlled substances today.

 

   1.  Public Act No. 17-131: An Act Preventing Prescription Opioid Diversion and Abuse. https://www.cga.ct.gov/2017/ACT/pa/2017PA-00131-R00HB-07052-PA.htm

   2.  Surescripts State Readiness and Local Search Tool http://surescripts.com/products-and-services/e-prescribing-of-controlled-substances

   3. Surescripts National Progress Report 2016 http://surescripts.com/news-center/national-progress-report-2016/#/EPCS-readiness-by-state

Maine e-Prescribing Deadline Fast Approaching

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Prescribers in Maine have less than 3 weeks until the mandate requiring all opioid prescriptions be sent electronically goes into effect. As of July 1st, 2017, licensed practitioners in Maine may no longer write paper prescriptions for opioid medications according to Public Law Chapter 4881.

As we wrote about earlier, the mandate was put in place in an effort to combat opiate abuse and heroin addiction. E-Prescribing prevents forged prescriptions, eliminates errors from illegible handwriting and misunderstood oral prescriptions, and helps prevent overprescribing of pain medications. It’s hoped that by limiting the pain pills, it will prevent people from even trying heroin to begin with.  

The Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services in Maine produced a document “Electronic Prescribing in Maine: A Guide to Understanding E-Prescribing and its Benefits2,” which addresses some frequently asked questions about the mandate.  Among the FAQs, it’s stated that an electronic prescription will be required for any amount of opioid medication being prescribed, even those for fewer than 7 days. Sending a prescription via facsimile will also not meet the requirements. Opioid prescriptions must be sent electronically using software that meets all of the federal security requirements and has been approved by the DEA for EPCS.

The DEA requirements for EPCS include:

  • Using certified software that has gone through a 3rd Party Audit – software systems must show that they meet the DEA requirements for signing, transmitting, and processing controlled substances prescriptions
  • Identity proofing – all prescribers must prove they are who they say they are and have the proper credentials to prescribe controlled substances
  • 2-Factor Authentication – prescribers must use 2-factor authentication to sign controlled substance prescriptions electronically. This involves using 2 of the following: something you know (a password), something you have (most commonly a software or hardware token), or something you are (biometric information).

While the requirements can make it seem overwhelming, MDToolbox has simplified the process. Signing up for MDToolbox-Rx e-Prescribing with EPCS is a simple process with only a few steps that can be completed within minutes. Once signed up, utilizing the software is just as easy with an intuitive workflow.

Although it’s quick and easy to get started with MDToolbox, we do not recommend waiting any longer. If you prescribe opioids in Maine and still need e-Prescribing software to meet the mandate, contact us today at info@mdtoolbox.com or 206-331-4420! We are ready to answer any questions you have and help make your transition to EPCS as smooth as possible.

 

1.  https://legislature.maine.gov/legis/bills/bills_127th/chapters/PUBLIC488.asp

2. Electronic Prescribing in Maine, A Guide to Understanding E-Prescribing and its Benefits. http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/samhs/osa/data/pmp/Electronic-Prescribing.pdf

37 States Now Sharing Prescription Data

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Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Texas are the four most recent states to join the prescription monitoring program (PMP) run by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) – NABP PMP InterConnect1. This brings the total number of states connected to 37, making it the largest prescription data sharing network. Over 3.9 million requests and 8.2 million responses are processed through the system each month.

The complete list of connected states includes: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

It is expected that other states will be joining soon too. “We’re excited about the growth and response to PMP InterConnect,” said NABP President Hal Wand, MBA, RPh. “Our goal is to reach every state with a PMP to guarantee a true connection across our country in an effort for greater medical knowledge and our patients’ safety.”

There is no charge to the states to use the system and it’s setup to enforce each state’s data-access rules. Authorized healthcare professionals including physicians and pharmacists in each of the connected states are able to access multi-state histories of their patients’ controlled substance prescriptions. This is an important tool in combating prescription drug abuse and identifying potential problems by allowing providers to see a comprehensive history, especially for those patients who cross state lines.

1. "Four States Join NABP PMP InterConnect, the Nation’s Largest Prescription Data Sharing Network," National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) https://nabp.pharmacy/four-states-join-nabp-pmp-interconnect-nations-largest-prescription-data-sharing-network/