Opioid addiction takes the lives of almost 100 Americans each day. The states with the highest number of opioids prescribed per 100 people are Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia, and the states with the overall biggest drug problem are the District of Columbia, Vermont, and Colorado. Opioid use disorder is affecting older Americans as much as younger ones.
In the light of the opioid abuse crisis in America, and the multitude of older adults who are being overprescribed these drugs, Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) introduced a bill called the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely (EPCS) Act (H.R. 3528) to combat opioid overdoses. The bill would make e-prescribing mandatory for all drugs that are considered controlled substances by 2020. Currently, only 14% of opioid prescriptions are electronic.
Rep. Mullin said, “By requiring all doctors and pharmacists to use an online database when prescribing these highly addictive drugs, we allow e-prescriptions to control, track, and monitor these highly addictive painkillers on a new level. This bill prevents patients from doctor shopping and prevents fraudulent, handwritten paper prescriptions.”
Controlled substances are listed by the Federal Government in the schedules of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The schedules are broken down into five categories, Schedule I through V. Schedule I drugs are those that have no medical use and that are the most unsafe, including heroin and LSD. Schedule V includes such drugs as cough medicines containing codeine.
Many people go to more than one doctor to get multiple prescriptions, otherwise known as “doctor shopping,” and this bill would make it so that a doctor must verify electronically if a patient is getting a prescription elsewhere.
Prescription drug monitoring programs, or PDMPs, are already mandatory in some states (Arizona, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma, to name a few). In these states, a doctor is required to verify a patient’s opioid history before prescribing. However, this doesn’t prevent people from shopping across state lines.
The ECPS Act is cosponsored by Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY), Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Rep. James Himes (D-CT), and Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-MA).