Are You Ready for Pennsylvania’s New E-Prescribing Law? Get New Guidance on Hardship Exemptions and More

Last Updated: Aug 29, 2019

prescriptions_onlineThe Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) has issued new guidance on the state’s e-prescribing law, which is set to take effect on Oct. 24, 2019.

The law – Act 96 of 2018 – mandates that all Schedule II through V controlled substances, except when dispensed or administered directly to a patient by a practitioner or authorized agent, other than a pharmacist, to an ultimate user, shall be prescribed electronically. This law replaces the traditional method of prescribing controlled substances to a patient, i.e. paper prescription pads.

DOH Clarifies an Exception in the Law for Practitioners without Internet, EHR

In its guidance, available online here, DOH provides its interpretation of an exception in the law (one of the law’s several exceptions) addressing practitioners and facilities without internet access or an electronic health record (EHR) system.

It is important for physicians to be aware that DOH interprets this statutory exception as requiring both elements be met, i.e. a practitioner must lack both Internet access and an EHR system. If a practitioner only lacks one of the two items listed in that statutory exception, then the practitioner would not qualify for the exception.

Practitioners or facilities that may lack an EHR but not internet access, or do not qualify for any other exception contained in the law, should apply for a hardship exemption if they will be unable to comply with the law by the Oct. 24 effective date.

How to Apply for a Hardship Exemption Under Act 96

Any practitioner, pharmacy, or health care facility that does not meet one of the exceptions in Act 96 but is unable to timely comply with the electronic prescribing requirements may petition the Department of Health (DOH) for an exemption from the requirements based upon economic hardship, technical limitations, or exceptional circumstances.

DOH says it may take a minimum of ten business days to render a decision on a hardship exemption, though it cautions that this timeframe could take longer depending on the volume of requests it receives. It is important for any practitioner to file for a hardship exemption as soon as possible to ensure that the Department issues a decision prior to the law taking effect.

DOH offers online hardship exemption form that can be used when applying for a temporary exemption. View Hardship Exemption Form

Practitioners who may be seeking a hardship exemption are encouraged to continue to plan for the e-prescribing requirement, as that requirement must be implemented unless an exception applies, or DOH grants a hardship exemption.

Pharmacy Verification of Paper Prescriptions

Act 96 does not require a pharmacist who receives a written, oral or faxed prescription to verify that the prescription falls under one of the statutory exceptions or a hardship exemption. Therefore, a pharmacist may continue to dispense medications from an otherwise valid written, oral or faxed prescription that is consistent with current laws and regulations.

Note, however, that separate from Act 96, pharmacy regulations do not require a pharmacist to fill a prescription if the pharmacist knows or has reason to know that it is false, fraudulent or unlawful, or that it is tendered by a patient served by a public or private third-party payor who will not reimburse the pharmacist for that prescription. In addition, a pharmacist may decline to fill or refill a prescription if, in the pharmacist’s professional judgment exercised in the interest of the safety of the patient, the pharmacist believes the prescription should not be filled or refilled.

The pharmacist is required to explain the decision to the patient, and if deemed necessary, the pharmacist shall attempt to discuss the decision with the prescriber. Therefore, nothing in Act 96 or the pharmacy regulations require a pharmacist to unequivocally honor a prescription, regardless of whether it is filed electronically or via a prescription pad.

Get Answers to FAQs on the E-Prescribing Law

In this Quick Consult fact sheet, PAMED answers physicians’ frequently asked questions about the law. It clarifies all the exceptions under the law and the penalties for violating the requirements.

Get the Quick Consult 

You can also visit DOH’s Act 96 resource page here.

PAMED members with questions on Act 96 can contact our Knowledge Center at 855-PAMED4U (855-726-3348) or


Leave a comment
  1. Raymond Lodise | Jul 03, 2019
    The attempt to control illegal narcotics has fallen into the hand of legal prescribers.  Although, on the surface and with distorted research, it seems it can diminish narcotic addiction, it is once again penalizing the legal much like the gun laws and we have seen and will continue to see a waste of time and effort.  Controlling narcotics is in the hands of law enforcement not physicians. True a few physicians have failed, but far less the policing agencies.  They have too long turned their head, and now to blame others. These actions will not change the situation, they are just movements to make it appear something is being done.  As a former physician with a sub specialty of drug detox and rehab, I assure those active in this portion of medicine will agree, this will NOT change anything in the addiction picture because it has been misguided.
  2. Hil Rizvi | Mar 21, 2019

    so many anti doc laws. its time to hold legislators in contempt

    hello PaMed. You cannot have a higher security measure than an original handwritten Rx

  3. Steve Karp | Mar 21, 2019

    First they make us buy 'special' prescription pads to protect against forgery. Now we can only prescribe electronically and now another batch of prescriptions will get tossed. When does this nonsense stop? Average docs need to realize that there are sellouts among us who let this nonsense continue. If they weren't sellouts they would speak frankly to the state legislators and tell them where to place their initiatives.

    Leave a comment

    Norcal Mutual

    Learn More