Changing One Word in Oklahoma Law Could Go a Long Way in Opioid Crisis

Nov 21, 2017

The prescription on the right was issued by a doctor's office. The prescription on the left was made with a computer and security paper available for purchase online.
Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

Oklahoma law currently says electronic prescribing may be used for controlled substances. A task force wants that "may" changed to "shall."

The one-word switch would effectively end paper prescriptions for opioids, which are Schedule II drugs. Tulsa County Director of Governmental Affairs Terry Simonson said those are easily forged.

Nearly every expert on an opioid task force — from pharmacists to DEA agents — was fooled by a fake prescription. A real prescription was scanned and altered on a computer and printed on security paper readily available online.

The security paper simply can't be photocopied.

"It was so easy. It was just kind of mind-boggling that that's all it took," Simonson said.

According to Surescripts, only 8 percent of the 14,000 prescribers in the state of Oklahoma are using e-prescribing for controlled substances. Meanwhile, 96 percent of the state’s pharmacies can receive electronic prescriptions.

Attorney General Mike Hunter said e-prescribing could be an important piece of a comprehensive solution the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse will recommend later.

"But I'm convinced that it will have a material impact on this leakage of opioids into the hands of addicts," Hunter said.

Besides making it difficult to forge prescriptions, e-prescribing would make it easer for doctors to prescribe smaller amounts of opioids. The drugs are often given in larger amounts than needed so patients won't be stranded with an insufficient supply for their pain. An electronic prescription could be easier for doctors to monitor and renew as needed.

The Tulsa County task force has the ear of state Rep. Glen Mulready for a bill to change the law saying electronic prescribing may be used for controlled substances to say it shall be used. Sen. AJ Griffin said she is interested in being a bill’s senate sponsor, and she has other legislation in mind.

"Our state is one of the very few that does not have a 911 Good Samaritan law. I have introduced that piece of legislation now for four years, and it's been blocked every time," Griffin said. "It will be my No. 1 priority as we move into 2018 session."

There are 40 states with Good Samaritan laws to help protect people from drug possession charges when they call 911 for an overdose.