New bill could end paper prescriptions, curb opioid abuse - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New bill could end paper prescriptions, curb opioid abuse

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Iowa lawmakers are considering a piece of legislation, which could curb the nation's opioid epidemic. 

Senate Study Bill 3074 would require all prescription orders to be made electronically, ruling out prescriptions made with pen and paper. 

The bill was suggested by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy. Lawmakers behind the bill hope it would not only prevent patients from changing or forging a prescription, but would also eliminate mistakes that might come from reading a hand written prescription.      

Electronic prescriptions are not a new concept, but it's a change pharmacies are largely behind. Pharmacist Wes Pilkington at Greenwood pharmacy in Waterloo supports the bipartisan bill. 

"We feel this bill would be a good change in pharmacies," said Pilkington. "Will increase patient safety. Lessens the likelihood of prescriptions being forged or phoned in fraudulently, or called in fraudulently. We also feel that this can reduce mistakes from handwritten prescriptions having to be interpreted by pharmacists."

State Senator Tom Greene, who is working on the bill with other lawmakers, is a former retail pharmacist who knows the problem all too well.

"A patient presented me with a prescription for sleeping medication-a controlled substance," said Greene. "And the doctor had ordered ten tablets. Well, the patient changed the one-zero to a four-zero. There are cases like that out there, and again electronic prescribing and the electronic transmission of that information is very accurate."

Most pharmacies like Greenwood are already computerized.

"We do get some medications that are faxed in and some that are phoned in," said Pilkington. "Very rarely we see the hand-written prescriptions that are brought in by the patients."

However, the new bill would require every physician and pharmacy to be on the electronic system. 

"It would basically be like an e-mail that's directly sent from the prescriber to the pharmacy and it's sent on a secure connection," said Pilkington. "And it kind of shows up like a document would show up to an e-mail. That prescription would be digitally signed by the prescriber allowing them to authenticate that it's them that they're doing it."

Senator Greene says it's a step in the right direction. 

"We want to make sure those people who have chronic pain or acute pain issues," said Senator Greene. "Obviously, that the right drug, the right quantity is dispensed. And it's a further step to ensure that process-safe delivery of very potent medication. 

As it stands right now, the bill would take effect July 1, 2019. Some critics argue that's not enough time to transition to the electronic system.  

Senator Greene hopes the bill will move out of subcommittee by the middle of next week.

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