By Steven Funk
On January 1, 2022, section 688 of the Business and Professions Code became effective, requiring that all prescriptions issued by a licensed healthcare practitioner to a California pharmacy must be issued electronically unless specified exemptions are met. This requirement includes prescriptions issued by healthcare practitioners in a state other than California that a California pharmacy will fill. The law also requires that as of January 1, 2022, all California pharmacies must have the capability to receive prescriptions electronically. The new provision was added by AB 2789 (Wood) (Chapter 438, Statutes of 2018) in efforts to increase the accuracy of patient outcomes for people prescribed medication by licensed healthcare practitioners, and curtail the ongoing abuse and misuse of prescriptions for controlled substances and ongoing diversion of prescription medication. [see 24:1 CRLR 84–85]
The law does provide for certain exemptions, including cases where the prescription is issued to a patient who has a terminal illness pursuant to section 11159.2 of the Health and Safety Code; cases where the prescription is issued to a patient who resides outside of California; and cases where transmission of an electronic data prescription is not available due to a temporary technological or electrical failure. When such technological or electrical failures occur, however, prescribers must document the reason in the patient’s medical record as soon as practicable and within 72 hours of the end of the technological or electrical failure that prevented the electronic data transmission of the prescription.
The California Board of Pharmacy has been actively advising its licensees about the law to ensure compliance and provide clarity about the new requirements. In addition to highlighting the impending statutory change in quarterly newsletters, staff compiled a list of answers to frequently asked questions on its website which specifies requirements for pharmacies, including their capability to receive electronic data transmission prescriptions, whether they are permitted to dispense a prescription medication that does not comply with the new law, transfers of e-prescriptions to other pharmacies, record keeping requirements, telemedicine situations, and out-of-state prescriptions, among other details.