From Tulsa County By RON PETERS
Tulsa County Commissioner
Over the past year the opioid epidemic has affected every state in the country including Oklahoma. In Oklahoma there were almost three million opioid prescriptions dispensed in 2017. More than half of all opioid prescriptions are issued to patients suffering some form of mental condition that limits their ability to cope or function successfully without taking the medication. Back pain is one of the other more common reasons for adults, and opioids given by dentists and oral surgeons is often the first time a young adult is introduced to opioid painkillers.
Verified statistics indicate that between three percent and nine percent of diverted opioid prescriptions are actually forged prescriptions. If those statistics are applied to Oklahoma, that would mean between 86,000 to 260,000 prescriptions could be forgeries.
To address this contributing cause to the epidemic, Tulsa County initiated conversations about this issue with representatives from local, state, and federal law enforcement, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, the pharmacy association and businesses, veterinarians, MD’s and DO’s, the Health Department, and Tulsa County’s Social Services Agency.
In December, we presented to the Attorney General’s Commission on Opioid Abuse the recommendation that there needed to be legislation that would make it mandatory that all prescriptions for controlled drugs and opioid medication be electronically prescribed. No more paper prescriptions that can be forged or altered. Based on this presentation, the Attorney General’s Commission in its final report recommended mandatory electronic prescribing as a top priority.
At the beginning of 2018 there were six states with mandatory electronic prescribing on the books and 11 more had filed legislation in 2018. Oklahoma is one of those eleven with the filing by Rep. Glen Mulready of House Bill 2931, which passed the House of Representatives on March 6.
Oklahoma is fortunate to have over 94 percent of its pharmacies already prepared to use electronic prescribing which is above the national average of 90 percent.
Prescribers aren’t as current with the technology. Of the nearly 14,000 prescribers in Oklahoma, less than 60 percent are equipped as active e-prescribers. Since most physicians’ offices already have the electronic medical records software, this can be adapted to include the necessary electronic prescribing software.
Besides eliminating the opportunity to forge opioid prescriptions, there are many other benefits from electronic prescribing. It can prevent prescription drug errors, lost prescriptions, faster refilling of prescriptions, eliminating handwriting errors on prescriptions, provides the physician with better monitoring of controlled substances prescriptions, and improve insurance verification.
Combating the opioid epidemic and helping those affected by it is going to take a multi-facet long-term commitment by many people and organizations. I’m pleased that Tulsa County has taken the lead in this effort.