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Electronic prescribing for controlled substances

The requirement to electronically prescribe controlled substances starts on July 1, 2021.

June 1, 2021
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The requirement to electronically prescribe controlled substances starts on July 1, 2021, for podiatrists, physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, and optometrists, and on July 1, 2023, for dentists and practitioners serving rural communities or in a solo practice.  The bill was passed to reduce fraudulent prescriptions for controlled substances.

In 2019, Governor Jared Polis signed SB19-079 into law. The law requires that physicians, physician assistants, advanced nurse practitioners, dentists, podiatrists, and optometrists must prescribe Schedule II, III or IV controlled substances electronically, with some exceptions.

Exceptions in the new law are:

  • If at the time of issuing the prescription, electronic prescribing is not available due to a temporary technological or electrical failure.
  • The prescription is dispensed at a pharmacy located outside Colorado.
  • The prescribing physician or physician assistant is personally dispensing the controlled substance to the patient.
  • The prescription includes one or more elements not supported by the most recent version of the National Council for Prescribing Drug Programs Script Standard and 21 CFR 1311.
  • The Federal Food and Drug Administration or Drug Enforcement Administration requires the particular controlled substance prescription to contain one or more elements that cannot be satisfied with electronic prescribing.
  • The prescription is not specific to a patient and allows dispensing of the prescribed controlled substance by an organization such as a hospice program.

Additionally, the law does not require pharmacists to verify the applicability of an exception to electronic prescribing and, as such, pharmacists may dispense the controlled substance pursuant to an order that is written, oral or transmitted via fax that is valid and lawful. 

Prescribing practitioners are required to indicate on license renewal questionnaires whether they have complied with the electronic prescribing requirement.


Colorado Revised Statutes, SB19-079

COVID-19 policy update