Posted in Policy

House bill proposes nationwide alert system to prevent opioid abuse

Chris Nerney
Chris Nerney, Contributing Writer |
House bill proposes nationwide alert system to prevent opioid abuse

One of the biggest contributors to the opioid crisis in the U.S. is over-prescription of these drugs by physicians who are unaware that the patient also is obtaining similar prescriptions from other healthcare providers, and a similar lack of awareness among pharmacists charged with filling prescriptions.
A bipartisan bill recently introduced into the House aims to solve that problem by creating a nationwide Prescription Safety Alert System to help prevent opioid abusers from gaming the system.
The ALERT (Analyzing and Leveraging Existing Rx Transactions) Act would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collaborate with the private sector to create a Prescription Safety Alert System. 
As laid out in the bill, the alert system would analyze the transaction data that pharmacists and payers (including insurance companies and government programs such as Medicare) already generate whenever prescriptions are filled.  This data analysis would provide real-time feedback to pharmacists directly into their normal workflow at the point of sale. 
While most states already run digital prescription drug monitoring programs, the majority of these systems are not updated in real-time, enabling opioid abusers to visit multiple doctors and pharmacists before their activities are detected. Further, some states don’t share data with other states.
The ALERT Act was introduced last Thursday by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-New Jersey), co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Virginia) and Rep. Ann Kuster of New Hampshire, the Democratic co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force. 
“Seventy-two thousand Americans died from a drug overdose last year,” MacArthur said in a statement. “We absolutely have to get smarter about how we use technology and data analysis to fight this crisis. By giving pharmacists, insurance companies, and programs like Medicare a new tool to understand the data they already have, we can help prevent further harm.”
MacArthur’s office said the ALERT Act has been endorsed by pharmacies, behavioral health and substance abuse treatment experts, and healthcare technology providers, including the Brain Injury Association of America, Centerstone, CoverMyMeds, the eRx Network, Health IT Now, OCHIN, RelayHealth Pharmacy Solutions, the Kennedy Forum, and Walgreens.