Provided by Congresswoman Barbara Comstock’s Office
Congresswoman Barbara Comstock announced the introduction of new legislation to create a nationwide Prescription Safety Alert System, which will give America’s pharmacists a new tool to protect patients from opioid overuse. Congresswoman Comstock introduced the ALERT Act with Congressman Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and Congresswoman Ann Kuster (D-NH), the Democratic co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force.
“It remains critical that we innovate and use new technologies to battle the opioid epidemic that is sweeping our nation and taking the lives of so many vulnerable victims,” Congresswoman Comstock said. “Fighting the battle against opioid and prescription drug abuse requires an all-of-the-above community approach and our pharmacists are on the frontlines of this battle and many are witnesses to this abuse every day. The ALERT Act creates a nationwide Prescription Safety Alert System so that our pharmacists can receive data in real-time to detect someone at risk of addiction or over prescription, and help those addicted to prescription painkillers get the help they so desperately need. We cannot arrest our way out of this crisis, instead we must ensure our healthcare providers have critical tools like this alert system that can help prevent abuse and overdoses before it’s too late.”
“Seventy-two thousands Americans died from a drug overdose last year. We absolutely have to get smarter about how we use technology and data analysis to fight this crisis,” Congressman MacArthur said. “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. A pharmacist will receive an alert that someone might be at risk of overuse based on their prescription history, or might be doctor-shopping to feed their addiction. Instead of filling that unnecessary prescription, pharmacists will have an extra tool to detect and prevent these dangers. People struggling with substance abuse need our care and diligence while they seek treatment. This crisis does not discriminate. It affects all of us, and it will take all of us working together to beat it. We need to give ourselves every tool we can.”
The ALERT (Analyzing and Leveraging Existing Rx Transactions) Act would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work with the private sector to establish a Prescription Safety Alert System. The alert system would analyze the transaction data that pharmacists and payers, like insurance companies or government programs like Medicare, already generate whenever prescriptions are filled. That data analysis would provide real-time feedback to pharmacists, directly into their normal workflow at the point of sale.
The SENIOR Communities Protection Act, MacArthur’s bill to crack down on pharmacy Medicare fraud that contributes to the opioid crisis, passed the House in July and is being considered in the Senate.
“Combating the opioid epidemic requires a comprehensive response,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “This bill complements Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs in a minimally disruptive manner by allowing prescribers to use the data pharmacists and insurers already have in a more effective way to protect patients who are at risk of opioid abuse. I look forward to continuing to work across the aisle to advance measures to take on this crisis and save lives.”
The ALERT Act has been endorsed by numerous organizations in the healthcare space, representing pharmacies, behavioral health and substance abuse treatment experts, and heath 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.
Background: Most states operate Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, which help prescribers and pharmacists track prescription drug use. These systems are critically important and have helped states respond to the drug crisis, but most of these systems are not updated in real-time, meaning that an individual can visit numerous doctors and pharmacists before the system data can detect them. Not every state system shares data with other states, making doctor-shopping across state lines easier in many cases. And they are subject to user error, since prescribers and pharmacists must input and manually check data in a separate system. Creating a real-time system, based on data that is already standardized nationwide, and that delivers alerts directly into pharmacists’ existing workflow, will enhance the effectiveness of existing state PDMP programs and represents a significant step forward. The ALERT Act would require that all data be strictly controlled to protect patient privacy.