Pharmacy Times

Electronic Ordering Cuts Out the Paper

Author: Barbara Sax

Anda Inc and Valmed Pharmaceutical Inc (VIP), specialty generic drug wholesalers and wholly owned subsidaries of Andrx Corp, have introduced a new Controlled Substance Ordering System (CSOS), which should reduce errors and headaches for retail pharmacies ordering Schedule II (CII) drugs. The system, which works based on the rules and regulations of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), allows pharmacies, distributors, and manufacturers to transmit CII orders electronically, a process that should save the industry time and money without sacrificing safety.

"The previous process, which required pharmacists to fill out forms in duplicate, left not only pharmacies, but the DEA with a tremendous amount of paper to handle," said Jerry Cazzell, vice president of Internet technology at Anda and VIP. "Now customers can check our inventory electronically, order electronically, and have the order fulfilled for next-day delivery."

One of the major drawbacks was the rate of error involved in filling out paperwork for CII drug orders. "The biggest problem with pharmacies ordering manually was the potential for error," said Cazzell. "If the pharmacist misspelled the drug's name or ordered a generic but put in the code for a branded drug, the order would not be filled."

Too often under the old system, error could leave patients waiting for drugs they needed. "Pharmacists do not like to keep much of an inventory of CII drugs since there is so much potential for theft or other abuse," said Cazzell. "Since pharmacists often don't keep a supply of these drugs in the store, and there is a 3-to 4-day delay before the drug is received in the store, if an error occurs, it keeps patients waiting even longer for their medication." Cazzell believes the system will improve patient satisfaction.

The new electronic ordering system will cut the delivery time for CII drugs, making next-day delivery the norm. Anda and VIP service thousands of retail and long-term care pharmacies across the United States and already provide nextday fulfillment service for all of their other orders. "That is a real advantage for pharmacies in that they do not need to stock extra CII drugs," said Cazzell. "That means they can order more frequently and carry less inventory."

In addition to a reduction in errors and increased patient satisfaction, there is a cost-cutting advantage for pharmacies when ordering these controlled drugs electronically. "The DEA estimates that the cost of filling a paper order is $23 to $26 versus $3.50 for an order transmitted electronically," said Cazzell.

Retail pharmacists, a segment of the market that Anda and VIP specialize in serving, have embraced the new technology. "Ordering CII drugs electronically is a way of reducing inventory and saving time," said Cazzell. "In many stores, the pharmacist is also the owner, so anything to save a few minutes is very valuable to them."

"Based on our discussions with pharmacists throughout the United States, at least 80% of all pharmacists we surveyed would prefer to order CIIs electronically," said Albert Paonessa III, chief operating officer for Anda and VIP. "We have listened to our customers and have integrated this technology with our electronic ordering capabilities to serve their needs."

One of those pharmacists surveyed was Gary Angelo, owner of Silverton Pharmacy in Toms River, NJ. "Pharmacists have hoped for the ability to eliminate manual paper DEA 222 forms for years," said Angelo. "It will allow my pharmacy and thousands of others to minimize their on-hand inventory and offer more responsive service to our customers in need."

Cutting down on paperwork is also a way for pharmacies to better comply with DEA regulations. When the DEA wants to investigate or audit, pharmacies and investigators need to pour through a tremendous amount of paperwork?a process that can be made much easier with electronic ordering.

Since Anda and VIP's system went up in mid October, hundreds of pharmacies have signed on. "We were the first out of the box to make electronic ordering available, so pharmacies are really interested," said Cazzell. Anda and VIP's system, which utilizes an electronic signature, was part of the DEA's initial electronic program and took over a year to create. Anda and VIP, working with the DEA, began testing the program in April 2005 before rolling it out in October. In order to move to an electronic CSOS, pharmacies must be certified by the DEA. Once a pharmacy is certified, Anda and VIP provide the CSOS software free of charge to their active customers. Call 888-218-2632, or visit www.AndaCSOS.com or www. VIPCSOS.com.

"The DEA prefers that pharmacies get information from its Web site, which has a help line for pharmacists who want to register," said Cazzell. "The DEA's help-desk staff is very good. They know how to simplify information that can sound complicated."

For more information on registering with the DEA for electronic CSOS, visit www.deaecom.gov/csosmain.html.

Ms. Sax is a freelance writer based in Chevy Chase, Md.

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