As the Department of Health and Human Services makes clear in the starkest terms, the U.S. faces an unprecedented opioid epidemic. On an average day, 3,900 people initiate non-medical use of prescription opioids, while 78 people die from an opioid-related overdose. In 2014, more than 240 million scripts were written for prescription opioids—more than enough to give every adult in the country their own bottle of pills.
In Virginia, a state representative who happens to be a practicing dentist introduced a bill that would require all opioid prescriptions to be issued electronically. Electronic prescribing—or e-prescribing for short—allows dentists to write and send prescriptions electronically, instead of using traditional paper pads, which are more vulnerable to abuse and fraud.
Todd Pillion, the dentist-lawmaker behind the bill in question, saw the effects of the opioid epidemic up close and personal in his corner of Southwest Virginia, where he represents three of the five counties with the highest fatal overdose rate in the state.
In late February of this year, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed the bill into law after it sailed through the State House and Senate, mandating that all Schedule II-V prescriptions be sent electronically beginning July 1, 2020.
With this new mandate, Virginia joins other states such as Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maine in passing legislation aimed at tightening opioid controls and deterring prescription painkiller abuse. We’ll be following similar efforts across the country as they spread from coast to coast.