Colorado moving to electronic-only prescriptions

DENVER — Major changes are on the way to how you receive prescription medications.

Starting in 2021, doctors across Colorado will be required to prescribe controlled substances electronically, eliminating the traditional paper pad used for decades.

The bipartisan bill was signed by Gov. Jared Polis in April, partially to cut down on fraudulent prescription drug activity.

That includes a case uncovered by FOX31, in which a Boulder County pharmacist used a dead doctor's prescription pad to illegally sell prescriptions.

Court documents show Mary Aronson, who owned the St. Vrain Pharmacy in Lyons, gave customers blank prescription pads in 2018 belonging to a Dr. Frederick Eframo.

Eframo passed away in 2011.

"They do get out," said Robert Valuck, a University of Colorado pharmaceutical professor. "It could be someone in the office took one, it could be a patient that sees a pad laying around and takes the prescription pad."

It's unclear how Aronson got her hands on Eframo's pad. She's been sentenced to prison for illegally selling prescription painkillers.

Valuck said while cases like this are rare, they do happen.

"It happens enough that it's a concern," he said.

He said people have also been known to photocopy paper prescriptions, and use them at multiple pharmacies.

"Those prescription pads are every bit as important as currency, because they are currency," he said.

Beginning in 2021, doctors will be required to submit prescriptions electronically, eliminating the middle man.

"It's only part of the problem. The opioid crisis is very complex, and one thing isn't going to solve the problem," he said. "But this is one slice of it, and a solvable slice."

Doctors in some rural communities will be given a grace period until 2023 to eliminate paper prescriptions.

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