Opioids: CVS Imposes Prescription Limits to Combat Epidemic

Lydia Fleming
September 23, 2017

CVS Pharmacy on Thursday became the first national retailer to limit opioid prescriptions to a 7-day supply. It plans to roll out the initiatives to control opioid abuse as of February 1, 2018.

"As America's front door to health care with a presence in almost 10,000 communities across the country, we see firsthand the impact of the alarming and rapidly growing epidemic of opioid addiction and misuse", said Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Health.

The new limits are part of a wider initiative meant to protect patients against a fast-growing opioid abuse epidemic that has led to a sharp increase in overdose deaths attributed to opioids, CNN reported.

The new guidelines would also limit the daily dosage of opioids depending on their strength, and would require immediate release opioids to be used before extended-release drugs, according to a CVS press release.

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CVS manages medications for almost 90 million customers at 9,700 retail locations.

The CVS announcement comes on the heels of a special publication released by the National Academy of Medicine, "First, Do No Harm", which calls on the leadership and action of doctors to help reverse the "course of preventable harm and suffering from prescription opioids".

In addition, pharmacists filling the prescriptions will likewise be required to talk to patients about the responsible use of opioids, precautions in storing them at home, proper disposal and addiction risks, CVS stated.

CVS said this isn't a blame game. These guidelines will serve as a resource for community health centers receiving grants from this partnership to provide treatment for opioid addiction. It means that customers experiencing acute, short-term pain will only be allowed to purchase one week's worth of opioids with a single prescription, Today reports.

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"We are proud of our long-standing relationship with the CVS Health Foundation to help reduce health disparities among medically underserved populations", said Tom Van Coverden, President and CEO, National Association of Community Health Centers.

CVS' Our Pharmacists Teach program has reached out to about 300,000 students to discuss the dangers of opioid abuse and is planning to offer more education on the subject.

CVS is changing the way it dispenses powerful painkillers to help combat the nation's opioid epidemic.

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