A bipartisan bill filed in the Colorado House last week would make it harder for drug abusers to forge or duplicate prescriptions on paper to steal opioids, and it’s kind of simple: Prescribers and pharmacies should close the loop online.
The bill would require podiatrists, dentists, physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses and optometrists, as well as medical professionals serving rural communities or those in a solo practice, to send opioid prescriptions directly to pharmacies using a secure online connection, except under a few exemptions.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration approved the electronic-prescription system in 2010, and after years of federal reimbursement incentives, pharmacies are at or near 100 percent ready. In Colorado, however, only about 9 percent of prescribers are using it. The national average is 15 percent.
Six states have made it mandatory and 10 states are considering legislation.
House Bill 1279 is scheduled to be heard first by the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee on March 22.
Its main sponsors are Reps. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, with Sens. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City. Other sponsors, so far, also represent leaders who should be able to get it to the governor’s desk: Reps. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora; Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins; Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood; Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs; Hugh McKean, R-Loveland; and Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle.
“The opioid crisis is devastating communities across Colorado,” Esgar told Colorado Politics on Friday. “Requiring the safest possible method for prescribing opioids that have the highest misuse and abuse rates is the right thing to do. My legislation would facilitate safe prescribing, close loopholes and keep opioids out the hands of the people to whom they have not been prescribed.”
Though not a panacea, mandatory e-prescriptions have cut into opioid abuse in other states, according to the Colorado Retail Council, which is supporting the bill.
“We know there’s a problem,” the council said in a fact sheet for lawmakers obtained by Colorado Politics. “What can we do to change the Colorado trend? To tackle this multi-dimensional problem, the solution must be multi-faceted and comprehensive. E-prescribing is a proven, effective tool to fight opioid misuse and addiction.”
A study by the National Addictions Vigilance Intervention and Prevention Program suggests 3 to 9 percent of illegally obtained opioids are tied to forged prescriptions.
That would mean that of the 2.3 million opioid prescriptions in Colorado last year 70,903 to 212,709 were forged.