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NACDS: DEA OKs e-prescribing for controlled substances

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores has commended the Drug Enforcement Administration for issuing its interim final rule allowing electronic prescribing of controlled substances.

Calling the DEA’s enactment of the rule "historic," NACDS said the move marks the first time that there can be a coordinated e-prescribing system for controlled and noncontrolled prescription medications. The association noted that the inability to use e-prescribing for controlled substances had until now been a major barrier to doctors’ adoption of e-prescribing.

"Today is truly an historic day for the health care system, as this rule will allow much-needed health information technology solutions to better serve patients. For the first time ever, electronic prescribing of controlled substances will be permitted," NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson said in a statement. "We thank DEA officials for issuing a workable rule to help make this technological capability a reality for physicians, pharmacies and their patients."

NACDS said it has worked for over a decade with the DEA, the Department of Health and Human Services, pharmacy partners, intermediaries such as Surescripts, technology vendors and others to bring e-prescribing for controlled substances to fruition. Implementation is slated to take six months or more, allowing time for stakeholders to comply with the rule.

Currently, most U.S. pharmacies have the capability to receive electronic prescriptions, according to NACDS. More than 97% of the nation’s drug chains use pharmacy applications tested and certified through Surescripts. The number of prescriptions routed electronically has risen from 68 million in 2008 to 191 million last year.

"Upon full implementation, this rule will not only help improve the quality of how patients receive their medications, but it can help cut costs to the overall health care system," Anderson added. "NACDS looks forward to continuing to work with DEA throughout the implementation process of this interim final rule."

Health solution provider DrFirst said that on Thursday it plans to hold a public demonstration of the nation’s first end-to-end electronic prescribing system for controlled substances at the 2010 AHRQ Annual Health IT Grantee and Contractor meeting in Washington, D.C. The company said the system has been operational in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, since September 2009.

According to DrFirst, controlled substances make up about 11% of prescriptions written in the United States and are written by approximately 90% of providers. The company explained that the inability to write a controlled drug electronically had created the need for a provider to implement two office workflows: one for electronic prescriptions and one for controlled substances that were hand-signed and hand-delivered, which worked against the efficiency benefits offered by e-prescribing.


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