The DEA has issued an interim final rule that would allow electronic transmission of prescriptions of controlled substances.
The interim rule, which was published in the March 31 issue of the(edocket.access.gpo.gov) Federal Register would, among other things,
- give prescribers the option of e-prescribing controlled substances;
- permit pharmacies to receive, dispense and archive electronic prescriptions;
- reduce paperwork for DEA registrants, such as family physicians;
- help pharmacies and hospitals integrate prescription records into other medical records;
- increase efficiencies and reduce the wait time for patients having prescriptions filled; and
- potentially reduce prescription forgeries.
The Academy has long held the view that physicians should have the freedom to e-prescribe, regardless of the medication.
Jason Mitchell, M.D., assistant director of the AAFP's Center for Health IT, said the new rule contains significant changes from a 2008 proposed rule that faced opposition and ultimately was dropped. Mitchell said family physicians would appreciate the agency's renewed efforts to reduce the administrative burden on e-prescribers in its latest rule.
"The rule does outline specific processes for viewing and 'signing' electronic prescriptions for controlled substances," said Mitchell, noting that the agency "introduces the option of biometric devices (such as fingerprint or eye scanners) in this rule that were not a part of the original proposed rule."
It remains to be seen whether increased regulatory requirements placed upon health IT vendors would increase their costs, which then could be passed along to physicians, said Mitchell.
The federal government is pushing physicians to adopt e-prescribing technology, but currently, e-prescribers must use a separate paper process for writing and routing prescriptions for Schedule II-V drugs. According to 2007 DEA estimates, these drugs make up better than 10 percent of all prescriptions ordered.
The DEA said the interim rule also could reduce the number of prescription errors caused by illegible handwriting, as well as the number of misunderstood verbally ordered prescriptions.
The agency will accept public comments on the rule for 60 days after its publication.