What is EPCS?

Controlled Substance E-Prescribing

Electronic Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS) eliminates paper prescriptions entirely by allowing clinical prescribers to electronically write prescriptions for controlled substances. It also permits pharmacies to receive, dispense and archive these e-prescriptions.

EPCS also creates new “Identity Proofing” responsibilities for EHR vendors, prescribers and pharmacies by requiring two-factor authentication (e.g. using hard tokens such as those with one-time passwords), more robust audit trails and strict auditing procedures in order to comply with the DEA’s Interim Final Rule regulating EPCS.

While prescribing controlled substances electronically isn’t mandated by the federal government—states are still empowered to further regulate prescribing—this rule creates a significant benefit for almost every stakeholder, including pharmacists, drug companies, health plans, law enforcement agencies, providers and patients. In New York, EPCS is required by the Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing (I-STOP) law, which requires that all prescriptions for both legend drugs and controlled substances be sent electronically.

The number of EPCS-enabled pharmacies is growing fast

E-prescribing is now legalized in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, prompting more than 82 percent of retail pharmacies in the U.S. to become fully enabled to accept controlled substance prescriptions electronically—from Walmart and Target to smaller, independent stores. And the number is growing.

Why EPCS is necessary

Deaths from prescription painkillers have reached epidemic levels. According to the CDC, 15,000 people die every year from overdoses involving prescription painkillers.

The regulation aims to quell the increasing rates of opioid-related addiction, abuse, diversion and death by making it more difficult for drug-seekers to doctor-shop and alter prescriptions.

DrFirst took the lead on controlled substance e-prescribing

DrFirst was the first company in the nation to have a certified EPCS solution, and laid the groundwork for electronic prescribing of controlled substances several years before the DEA rule. Thanks to a federally funded three-year pilot grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to the Department of Public Health in Massachusetts, DrFirst in 2010 developed, tested and implemented an electronic prescribing program for controlled substances in Western Massachusetts, effectively allowing the ruling of EPCS to pass.

Today, our EPCS GoldSM system meets all of the DEA’s requirements, as well as Surescripts’ strict certification processes. We are committed to further leading the industry in best practices for the quality, usability and security of controlled substance e-prescribing.

What You Need to Get Started:

  • EHR Certification
    Find out if the EHR software version that your practice uses has already been certified and approved for EPCS.
  • Identity Proofing
    ID proofing can be done in-person or online, through companies that work with your EHR. For online ID proofing, you may need to answer a security question and email scanned copies of government-issued documents along with your photo and your medical license.
  • Two-Factor Authentication
    This two-step process ensures that only you can sign and send the controlled substance prescription to the pharmacy and includes something you have (e.g., a fob token generated one-time password) and something you know (e.g., a password). There are various options for two-factor authentication: mobile phones, smart cards, fob tokens, USB thumb drives and biometrics such as fingerprint scanners.

Request a Demo