Electronic prescriptions for controlled substances, also known as EPCS is a technology solution to help address the problem of prescription drug abuse in the United States. The rule “Electronic Prescriptions for Controlled Substances”, provides practitioners with the option of writing and transmitting prescriptions for controlled substances electronically. The regulations also permit pharmacies to receive, dispense, and archive these electronic prescriptions.
In response to the rising prescription drug abuse problem, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and states have worked together to create programs and legislation to deter abuse and misuse. In 2010, the DEA legalized the use of Electronic Prescriptions for Controlled Substances. The DEA Title 21 CFR provides guidance for EPCS. EPCS technology is addressing the problem of forged or stolen prescriptions by requiring authentication of prescribers, improving security standards, and auditing activity on EPCS platforms.
Controlled Substance Prescription
Controlled substances are drugs that have potential for abuse and dependence. These drugs are regulated by the federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA), which divides controlled substances into five categories called schedules.
DEA Title 21 puts much of the responsibility on the provider to ensure safety of EPCS. The provider must register with the DEA and obtain a DEA number for prescribing controlled substances. They must retain sole possession of any two factor authentication tokens and must not share the password with any other person. The practitioner has the same responsibilities when issuing prescription for controlled substances via electronic means as when issuing a paper or oral prescription.
EHR Technology Responsibilities
DEA Title 21 requires the EHR or technology to be a certified product by a third party auditor or a certification body to ensure proper creating, signing, and refilling of controlled substance prescriptions. This technology must provide a way for prescribers to obtain identity verification and two-factor authentication meeting national standards. The product must link the registrant to at least one DEA registration number and ensure that they are the only registrant signing their prescriptions.
As of July 2015, 49 states and the District of Columbia have approved e-prescribing of controlled substances for Schedules III through V, and most for Schedule II drugs as well.