April 4, 2018

According to government estimates, the opioid epidemic has reached crisis proportions, and now costs the US more than $500 billion annually. Of this total, $432 billion is from the total cost of fatalities and $72 billion is from non-fatality costs such as increased health care costs, lost productivity, and criminal justice costs. More than 80% of the $500 billion in costs is related to individuals who are abusing prescription drugs (i.e., this problem is not limited to illicit drug abuse, like heroin). The opioid epidemic is a complex problem with multiple, complex solutions. However, one of the most important solutions lies in gaining better control of the prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances.

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E-prescribing has been shown to dramatically reduce medication errors and limit fraud, and in 2010 the Drug Enforcement Agency allowed its use for prescribing of controlled substances. All states now permit the use of e-prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS), and an increasing number of states require its use. EPCS, combined with comprehensive medication history, helps circumscribe prescriber and pharmacy shopping, enables better prescription tracking, and reduces fraud.

Some of the benefits associated with EPCS have been quantified in published studies, but others have not. Visante and Point-of-Care Partners have completed a comprehensive review of the literature to create an economic analysis of the benefits associated with mandatory use of EPCS across the United States. In addition, a recent state law in New York requiring e-prescribing of opioids may soon demonstrate that such policies deliver significant savings by reducing inappropriate utilization. However, data on actual fiscal savings achieved through New York’s program were not yet available at the time of publication and are not factored into our findings.