How Congress Can Curb Opioid Abuse: New NCPA Analysis

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E-prescribing is Key to Reducing Prescription Fraud & Abuse

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Electronic prescribing and tracking of opioid drug prescriptions would slow down doctor shopping, prescription drug abuse, and those seeking to profit from diverting these types of pain relievers to the illicit market.

The bill recently passed by the House in an effort to reduce opioid abuse did not include a key solution to the growing opioid pan reliever epidemic: mandatory electronic prescribing. E-prescribing would make a significant dent in the rate of fraud, resale and abuse of opioids, according to a new study by National Center for Policy Analysis Senior Fellow Devon Herrick.

“Congress continues to ignore the potential of e-prescribing as a common sense solution to opioid abuse,” said Herrick. “Electronic prescribing and tracking of opioid drug prescriptions would slow down doctor shopping, prescription drug abuse, and those seeking to profit from diverting these types of pain relievers to the illicit market.”

Recent research estimates that:

  • 20 million people abuse prescription drugs in a given year.
  • In 2010, the death toll from opioid pain reliever overdosed reached nearly 17,000 annually.
  • In 2013, admissions to rehab facilities for addiction to all types of opioids were up about 60 percent from a decade earlier, surpassed only by admissions for alcohol addiction.
  • Over the course of a dozen years, from 1999 to 2011, the rate of fatal prescription opioid overdoses nearly quadrupled, from 1.4 per 100,000 to 5.4. The number of heroin overdose deaths began to skyrocket around 2010 as some people switched from prescription opioids to heroin.

In the report, Herrick notes that transmitting prescriptions electronically is a way for doctors to directly communicate their patients’ prescription orders to pharmacies — rather than handing patients a paper signed prescription ripped from a prescription pad. E-prescribing secures this information exchange from diversion. E-prescribing also facilitates detection of multiple prescriptions filled for an individual from various physicians — so-called doctor shopping.

E-Prescribing: A Common Sense Solution to Opioid Abuse: http://www.ncpa.org/pub/e-prescribing-a-commonsense-solution-to-opioid-abuse-that-is-being-ignored

The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization, established in 1983. We bring together the best and brightest minds to tackle the country's most difficult public policy problems — in health care, taxes, retirement, education, energy and the environment. Visit our website today for more information.

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Catherine Daniell
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