The benefits of electronic drug prescriptions, or ePrescriptions, have been widely touted. These ePrescriptions allow for better record keeping, fewer (potentially fatal) medical errors, increased efficiency, and lower costs. As a result, the president and Congress have both supported ePrescription technology, at least verbally. Earlier this summer, Congress passed new Medicaid legislation that gives bonuses to doctors who ePrescribe.

After seven years of work, however, the Drug Enforcement Agency has taken its stand on the issue, with a proposal for a set of new rules. Interested parties have ninety days to comment on the proposed regulations.

Specifically, the DEA is targeting the electronic prescribing of controlled substances. Controlled substances are those drugs that are specifically likely to be abused, diverted, or may become addictive. The DEA’s regulations focus primarily on security and user authorization. The regulations will be most burdensome for doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies. The restrictions, conversely, are a boon for software vendors, who likely will have to roll out new software in order to meet compliance standards.

The regulations have been praised for being a vigorous step in fighting improper use of controlled substances. Medicare/Medicaid already pay a staggering amount of money for improper prescriptions. However, these regulations are expensive for the physician groups. Physician groups are already resistant to buying ePrescription systems, as they have historically received no substantial monetary benefit. Additionally, many physician groups complain that ePrescribing systems take more time to use, and divert physician attention away from patients. The DEA regulations only exacerbate these concerns.

- Joshua Rosenblatt

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