Electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) is gaining momentum as an effective weapon in the fight against opioid abuse and overdoses. A handful of states currently require EPCS, with Pennsylvania implementing a mandate that takes effect on October 24, 2019.
Pennsylvania is one of the states with the highest opioid use and overdose rates. In 2017, Pennsylvania ranked third highest with 44.3 deaths per 100,000.*
What’s required by the law
The legislation mandates that all Schedule II, III, IV, and V controlled substances be prescribed electronically—no paper prescription pads or faxes. Exceptions include medications dispensed or administered directly to a patient by a practitioner or authorized agent, other than a pharmacist, to an ultimate user.
Providers who do not follow the new law can face penalties as follows:
- $100 per violation for violations 1-10
- $250 per violation for the 11th and any subsequent violations
- The maximum cumulative fine per calendar year cannot exceed $5,000.
New law is well supported
Passed unanimously by both legislative chambers, on October 24, 2018, Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 96 into law. The mandate is also highly favored by Pennsylvania voters. In January 2018, a study found that 76% of Pennsylvania voters support requiring all prescriptions must be handled electronically, rather than via paper or fax, as a way to help address the opioid abuse epidemic.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) CEO Steven Anderson applauded the statute, “Federal and state laws are aligning to more completely leverage e-prescribing as a way to help reduce fraud and abuse and thus to help keep opioids out of the wrong hands. Pennsylvania’s legislators at the federal and state level are contributing strongly to the advancement of e-prescribing as an important part of the solution,” said Anderson.
*Scholl L, Seth P, Kariisa M, Wilson N, Baldwin G. Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths – United States, 2013-2017. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 21 December 018.