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Electronic Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS) is the name of the new initiative that allows pharmacists and prescribing physicians the ability to manage prescriptions for Schedule II through Schedule V drugs completely online, reports The Washington Post. As a voluntary program, no one is required to use it but it offers a number of benefits, including:
Reduction in forgeries of paper prescriptions
Increased ability to identify prescription painkiller abuse among patients
More time for doctors to spend with patients rather than on the phone with pharmacists
The initiative was first conceived in 2010 but a number of concerns needed to be addressed before it was ready for launch. For example, there was some concern about privacy. Additionally, a number of states needed to adjust their laws in order to legally accommodate the new system, and a number of pharmacies needed to update their systems as well.
It’s certainly an option that many states are interested in using as its benefits are clear. In New York, a similar online prescription system was implemented last year. In the first three days, the system helped medical professionals to identify 200 different incidents of fraud via “doctor shopping.” Perhaps due in part to this success, New York will be the first to state to require that controlled substances be prescribed only online.
The Problem With Success
It’s great news that so many different areas of the community are working together to limit prescription drug abuse. The medical community, law enforcement, and the government are all coming together in a way that is unique and rare. However, without treatment for those who are actively abusing their prescription and living with an opiate dependence, many patients will simply turn to a substance that is not only easier to get but cheaper as well: heroin.
Across the country, rates of heroin abuse have risen steadily in the wake of legislative changes that have limited access to these drugs for those who would abuse them. Heroin addiction deaths due to overdose have become a significant issue as a result. It’s clear that more than just identification of fraud and drug abuse is necessary; treatment will make the difference in increasing the health and wellness of patients.