Prescription pads yielding to e-prescribing in the Garden State

Pharmaceutical CommercePharmaceutical Commerce - April 2009

But, AHRQ data show that e-prescribing systems can hurt branded-pharma sales

New Jersey physicians wrote nearly two million electronic prescriptions in 2008, a 20% increase over the 2007 rate, according to Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (BCBSNJ; Newark) and CVS Caremark. Some 1,000 New Jersey prescribers currently use CVS Caremark’s (Woonsocket, RI) proprietary iScribe electronic prescription system.

CVS Caremark and BSBCNJ have sponsored an e-prescribing program since 2004, resulting in more than 5.5 million e-prescriptions being written by some 1,000 NJ doctors. Similar programs are being sponsored in many regions of the country; the American Medical Assn. (Chicago), which has just added an e-prescribing “learning center” to its website, projects that 100 million prescriptions will be transmitted electronically this year by more than 74,000 prescribers.

Meanwhile, SureScripts (formerly, SureScripts-RxHub) estimates that nearly 500 million e-prescriptions were written in 2008, a doubling from the year before. SureScripts is an industry and healthcare-system sponsored center that has established a national electronic prescribing network for information sharing between physicians, pharmacies, and payers. (iScribe is compatible with the SureScripts system.) The organization is about to unveil a detailed report on current trends.

E-prescribing is one of the more prominent aspects of healthcare information technology (HIT) that has been boosted by a nearly $20-billion authorization in the Obama Administration’s stimulus package. If SureScripts 2008 estimate is correct, nearly 25% of all prescriptions are being processed electronically now. However, after years of industry promotion, physician involvement still hovers around 10%, although it’s expected to ramp up now because of financial incentives to doctors.

The impact of e-prescribing will be mixed for the biopharma industry. On the one hand, e-prescribing has been shown to increase prescription fulfillment. On the other, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), in a study released late last year, found that e-prescribing systems having formulary decision support—those that allow doctors to select lower cost or generic medications—can save $845,000 per 100,000 patients per year.

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