CVS Health is putting new limits on prescriptions to help fight the opioid abuse epidemic the nation currently faces. It will also support safe drug disposal, educate patients, and raise awareness about opioid abuse, among other efforts.
America's Front Door To Health Care
CVS is one of the biggest pharmaceutical chains in the United States with approximately 9,700 CVS pharmacy stores and over 1,100 walk-in medical clinics. It manages the medications of nearly 90 million plan members.
The national drugstore said in a statement released Thursday, Sept. 21, that opioid overdose deaths quadrupled from 1999 to 2015, and that it is taking part in the fight against the worsening opioid abuse epidemic.
"As America's front door to health care with a presence in nearly 10,000 communities across the country, we see firsthand the impact of the alarming and rapidly growing epidemic of opioid addiction and misuse," said CVS Health President and CEO Larry Merlo.
Limits On Opioid Prescriptions
CVS will only allow seven-day supplies of opioids dispensed for certain acute prescriptions. It will likewise limit the daily opioid dosages, which will depend on the strength of the medicine, and require immediate-release formulas to be given first before dispensing extended-release versions, which are intended for severe and long-term pain treatment.
A March 2017 study revealed opioid addiction may start as early as five days of use. Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Prevention said that there is a sharp increase in the risk of patients getting hooked to opioid medications for the long term if they are advised to use it for more than five days.
Fighting Worsening Opioid Abuse Epidemic
The drugstore chain said that CVS Caremark, the pharmacy benefits manager, will have pharmacists discuss with patients the risks involved with the use of opioid drugs.
The drugstore chain is also committing $2 million to federally qualified community health centers that provide addiction recovery services and medication-assisted treatment.
"These initiatives build on our ongoing efforts to prevent and address opioid abuse, our work to increase access to the opioid-overdose reversal medication naloxone, and our ongoing advocacy to promote tools such as prescription drug monitoring programs, which help pharmacies and prescribers prevent abuse," CVS said in a statement.
The changes will take effect on Feb. 1 and will cover all commercial, employer, health plan and Medicaid clients.
Opioid Epidemic In The United States
Nearly 2 million people in the United States are addicted to prescription opioids. Three out of four new heroin users begin with the use of prescription drugs.