Big Retail, U.S. Congress embrace EPCS in growing push to require E-prescribing for opioids

As the opioid epidemic continues to impact people and communities across the U.S., both private and public sector leaders are increasingly embracing EPCS as a critical tool in the nation's response to the deepening crisis.

The surge of support for e-prescribing of controlled substances reflects an increasing embrace of EPCS by private and public officials seeking ways to ensure a more secure opioid distribution chain. Clearly, there is now broad awareness of EPCS as an upstream solution that can help healthcare delivery organizations curb opioid abuse while improving prescribing workflows for providers and patients.

The data support this trend. The number of prescribers utilizing e-prescribing increased 8% in 2017, according to the Surescripts 2017 National Progress Report, and the number of prescribers enabled for EPCS increased 59% in 2017.

Leading private corporations have helped drive this momentum. Walmart recently expanded its Opioid Stewardship Initiative, announcing that soon it will only accept EPCS. Joining Walmart is McKesson, one of the nation's largest opioid distribution companies, which will soon cease selling opioids to customers (with some exceptions) who cannot accept EPCS.

Both federal and state legislatures are matching this push. Within weeks, the U.S. House of Representatives could vote on HR 3528, The Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act. This legislation, introduced on July 28, 2017 by Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), would require EPCS for patients in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb endorsed the Clark-Mullin EPCS bill earlier this year.

The U.S. Senate is following suit. On February 27, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely (EPCS) Act, a bill designed to combat opioid overdoses by requiring EPCS under Medicare. This bill was recently endorsed by the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, and aims to reduce the number of opioids obtained through fraudulent prescriptions or doctor shopping.

State legislatures, meanwhile, have kept legislative pace. As of June 1, 10 states (NY, ME, CT, AZ, NC, RI, IA, OK, TN, and VA) have passed legislation containing EPCS mandates, and an additional 11 states (CA, CO, GA, IL, IN, LA, MA, MI, MO, NJ, and PA) have similar legislation under active consideration.

Embrace of EPCS by private and public sector leaders comes not a moment too soon. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, between 2015 and 2016 the opioid overdose death rate increased by 28 percent, bringing the death toll in 2016 to 42,200—nearly five people every hour. According to a 2017 Council of Economic Advisers report, the opioid crisis cost the nation $504 billion in economic losses in 2015, or 2.8 percent of the gross domestic product that year.

More than 300 healthcare organizations rely on Imprivata Confirm ID™ to comply with EPCS requirements while ensuring a fast, efficient workflow for providers. For more information, please see “A Quick Guide to EPCS,” which outlines the process that care providers should take to properly adopt EPCS into their workflows and what roles must be defined to achieve a successful roll-out.

As Walmart stated in its recent EPCS announcement: "E-prescriptions are proven to be less prone to errors, they cannot be altered or copied, and they are electronically trackable."