With deaths from opioid overdoses reaching new highs, Walmart and Sam's Club are taking action to help cut down the abuse of these drugs across the nation.
A New Opioid Restriction
On May 7, Walmart and Sam's Club announced plans to restrict acute opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply. This includes up to a 50 morphine milligram equivalent per day. The policy will go into effect in 60 days.
"We are taking action in the fight against the nation's opioid epidemic," said Marybeth Hays, executive vice president of Health & Wellness and Consumables, Walmart U.S. "We are proud to implement these policies and initiatives as we work to create solutions that address this critical issue facing the patients and communities we serve."
The plan, which will occur at the pharmacies for every location in the United States and Puerto Rico, matches the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guidelines for opioid use. In states that have opioid prescription restrictions that are less than seven days, Walmart will comply with those laws.
A few months ago, Walmart revealed that it will start a new program to offer free opioid disposal. Walmart also said it would use NarxCare, a tool that analyzes real-time controlled substance data from Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs. The pharmacy will also provide naloxone recommendations for certain patients.
By 2020, the company said that it would require e-prescriptions for controlled substances because there are fewer errors with this format.
The Opioid Crisis
The opioid situation is getting worse, with the drug now killing more people than breast cancer and guns. The CDC said that over 63,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose in 2016, which was the highest ever on record. Overdose deaths increased across all demographics.
In addition to prescription opioids, synthetic opioids are on the rise. Deaths attributed to synthetic opioids more than doubled last year. This was partially fueled by the fact that some users may not realize that they are taking synthetic opioids.
What Other Pharmacies Will Follow Walmart's Lead?
It is entirely possible that other major nationwide pharmacies will also enact similar restrictions on opioid prescriptions. One possible pharmacy that could do this is Walgreens. Last month, it enacted an awareness campaign called #ItEndsWithUs to educate consumers about opioids.
In 2017, CVS announced that it would enact a seven-day limit for opioid prescriptions for certain conditions and new patients. It is possible that CVS could expand the restrictions for all patients in the future.