Controlled substances, such as opiates or anabolic steroids, are newcomers to the field of electronic prescribing. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and most states have allowed physicians to e-prescribe Schedule II-V drugs in only the last few years, namely as the technology demonstrated better security.
A new study published in the American Journal of Managed Care looked at 18 months of activity on the Surescripts Network, one of the larger e-prescription systems in the country (accounting for almost 60 percent of U.S. e-prescription activity). The study found that between July 2012 and December 2013, the number of transmitted prescriptions for controlled substances surged from a little more than 1,500 to more than 52,000. Also during that period, about one third of pharmacies in the system became capable of receiving and processing e-prescriptions for controlled substances.
The going has been much slower on the provider side, with only 1 percent of those using Surescripts able to e-prescribe controlled substances by the end of the study period. The researchers were optimistic, noting that the number of eligible providers was increasing by several hundred a month at the end of the study period. But they did say that physicians, nurses, and other providers may be dragging their feet because they don’t yet entirely trust the technology or didn't see a financial incentive to make the switch from their prescription pad. They may also view the process of getting themselves and their computer systems registered with the proper authorities as extra work. That should change going forward, the authors said, as proponents have claimed e-prescribing could actually help advance pain management by reducing concerns about fraud and abuse.
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