CVS Limiting Opioid Prescriptions Amid National Addiction Epidemic

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

Opioid prescription rates have more than tripled in the last two decades contributing to the nation’s current opioid addiction crisis, according to CVS. Now, the country’s largest pharmacy chain plans to do something about it by limiting opioid prescriptions. 

CVS announced today a slew of initiatives intended to curb opioid abuse, including limiting the supply of opioids dispensed in each prescription, expanding drug disposal collection programs, and investing in education and treatment programs.

The measures are CVS’ way of making an impact amid the ongoing opioid epidemic, an issue the company says it sees firsthand.

“Today we are announcing an expansion of our enterprise initiatives to fight the opioid abuse epidemic that leverages CVS Pharmacy’s national presence with the capabilities of CVS Caremark,” Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health said.

Limiting Opioids

Starting Feb. 1, CVS — which is a pharmacy benefit manager administering prescription drug programs — says it will roll out an enhanced opioid utilization management approach for all commercial, health plan, employer, and Medicaid clients, unless they opt out.

Under this program, CVS will limit the supply of opioids dispensed to new patients for certain prescriptions to just seven days worth of medication.

Pharmacists will also be directed to consult physicians when a prescription appears to contain more medication than necessary for a patient’s needs.

Additionally, the company will limit the daily dosage of opioids dispensed based on the strength of the medication, and require patients use versions of medication that provide pain relief for a shorter time before providing medication that releases pain relief for extended amount of time.

More Education & Disposal

As part of the initiatives, CVS says it will strengthen its counseling for patients filling an opioid prescription, providing them with a “robust” education program.

Pharmacists will counsel patients about the risk of dependence and addiction tied to duration of opioid use, the importance of keeping medications secure in the home, and methods of proper disposal of unused medication.

Speaking of proper disposal, CVS says it will increase disposal options for customers, adding 750 in-store disposal units to the company’s 805 units already at pharmacies across the country.

Treatment & Recovery

Finally, CVS announced today that it put $2 million toward federally qualified community health centers that deliver medication-assisted treatment and other addiction recovery and prevention services.

The company says it will also expand its commitment to opioid abuse prevention education.

Through the Pharmacists Teach program, CVS will connect pharmacists with schools in order to provide students with information about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

What Are Others Doing?

CVS’ largest rival, Walgreens, is also taking steps to mitigate the ongoing opioid epidemic. USA Today reports that Walgreens plans to launch a marketing campaign to educate teens on the dangers of opioids.

The chain has also already issued more than 600 disposal kiosks at stores around the county.

However, USA Today points out that because Walgreens doesn’t have a pharmacy benefits manager like CVS, it can’t limit dosages of opioid prescriptions.