In a constructive step forward in the fight against our country’s opioid crisis, CVS announced Friday that it will implement new restrictions on how opioid prescriptions are dispensed in stores nationwide, beginning Feb. 1, 2018.
The national pharmacy chain will limit opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply for patients seeking pain treatment for the first time. Additionally, it will restrict the daily dosage of opioid pills, based on the strength of the opioid, and require immediate-release formulations before approving extended-release formulations, which are much stronger.
Beyond these regulations in dosing and quantity, there will be an education component, too: CVS pharmacists will counsel patients filling new prescriptions in opioid safety and the risks of addiction, based on guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This has the potential to make a huge impact, as CVS is one of the largest national pharmacy chains in the nation, with almost 10,000 stores and more than 1100 walk-in medical clinics, and provides prescriptions to nearly 90 million people each year.
According to the CDC, opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999, and in 2015, prescription opioids were involved in 15,281 deaths. In 2016, 214,881,622 opioid prescriptions were dispensed by retail pharmacies.
“Without a doubt, addressing our nation’s opioid crisis calls for a multi-pronged effort involving many healthcare stakeholders, from doctors, dentists and pharmaceutical companies to pharmacies and government officials,” Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO of CVS Health, said in a release.
CVS will also expand its Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program to a total of 1500 kiosks and disposal units in CVS pharmacies nationwide.
“Making sure people can safely dispose of unwanted medications is a key part of preventing opioid misuse and abuse, and CVS Health has taken this important step which will support the health of communities across the country,” said Richard Baum, Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy.
Significantly, CVS has made Naloxone (popularly known by its brand name, Narcan), an opioid-overdose reversal medication, available over-the-counter in 41 states.