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Contributing Writer · Jan 13, 2011

e-Prescribing Controlled Substances

Here at Practice Fusion we get all kinds of questions. When we began hearing some interesting stories about e-prescribing controlled substances, I wondered why people were so confused. While we talk about this issue on a daily basis and thus it makes sense to us, I realized that a newcomer to the issue might feel like they’ve been taking scheduled drugs. Yes David, this is real life.

First, let’s define controlled substances and DEA regulations and then, most importantly, dispel rumors about the legality and availability of e-prescribing controlled substances. For David’s sake.

Some drugs require government regulation or ‘control’. In the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is in charge of determining special rules for the manufacture, importation, distribution, possession and use of certain substances. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 established five schedules, each with its own criteria for a drug to be classified and placed in that schedule. Every schedule requires a finding specifying a drug’s potential for abuse.

Up until recently, it was illegal for pharmacies to fill electronic prescriptions for controlled substances (please be put to bed, silly rumor). On March 31, 2010, the DEA released an interim final ruling allowing the CMS e-prescribing of Schedule II, III, IV and V drugs in the US representing the culmination of a three-year push by the DEA. While this is a huge step towards a viable reality in which doctors can e-prescribe controlled substances electronically, it is not the last step.

Once a final ruling is issued, and controlled substances are officially legal to electronically prescribe, e-prescribing clearinghouses must update their systems in accordance with DEA regulation. The American Pharmacist Association predicts that it will take at least a year to make the updates to computer systems.

Surescripts, operator of the nation’s largest e-prescription network and the system used by Practice Fusion’s e-prescribing module, stated their desire to comply with the DEA’s ruling and their willingness to “work with members of the nation’s pharmacies, pharmacy benefit managers, health plans, software vendors and prescribers to analyze and act on the DEA’s requirements.”

Practice Fusion’s EHR will remain on the cutting edge of e-prescribing technology and alert all users as soon as sending prescriptions for schedule II, III, IV and V drugs is available.