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CVS Health, CVS Caremark Fortify Approach Against Opioid Epidemic

CVS to limit opioid prescriptions to 7 days for certain conditions.
Published Online: Sep 28,2017
Laurie Toich, Assistant Editor
Last week, CVS Health announced their pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), CVS Caremark, would be taking a new approach to fight the opioid epidemic.

To ensure that patients are being prescribed and using the drugs as intended, the PBM will start limiting opioid prescriptions to a 7-day supply for certain acute conditions, according to a press release.

CVS plans to limit the daily dosage of the drugs based on the strength of the opioid prescribed. The PBM will also require the use of immediate-release opioids prior to extended-release formulations to further prevent misuse.

CVS reports that these new actions are consistent with the Guideline for Prescribing Opioids set by the CDC, according to the release.

Previously, CVS donated hundreds of medication disposal units to police departments to prevent individuals from gaining access to drugs not prescribed to them. In addition to this measure, CVS is now including nearly 800 disposal units inside of their stores.

CVS pharmacists will also be offering patients counseling on the risks of dependence through an expansive safe opioid use education program, according to the release.

Through the Pharmacists Teach program, CVS pharmacists have discussed the potential dangers of opioids with hundreds of thousands of students. The pharmacy plans to expand their offerings by including opioid misuse prevention information for parents, CVS reported.

The opioid epidemic has resulted in sky high mortality rates, largely driven by prescriptions for the drugs tripling since the 1990s. Many states have declared an emergency over opioid-related deaths and overdoses that have ravaged America.

Despite increasing access to naloxone and medication-assisted treatment, the opioid epidemic is pushing forward, underscoring the need for a new approach.

"Without a doubt, addressing our nation's opioid crisis calls for a multipronged effort involving many health care stakeholders, from doctors, dentists and pharmaceutical companies to pharmacies and government officials," said Larry Merlo, president, CEO at CVS Health. "With this expansion of our industry-leading initiatives, we are further strengthening our commitment to help providers and patients balance the need for these powerful medications with the risk of abuse and misuse."