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A State of Emergency: Integrative Approaches to Addiction and the Opioid Epidemic

October 27, 2017 | Pharmacy

Tom Moriarty talks about the power of partnerships in tackling the opioid epidemic.

This week, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy and External Affairs Officer Tom Moriarty joined leaders in health, medicine, business, academia, government and philanthropy at the Milken Institute Future of Public Health Summit in Washington, D.C. to discuss progress against one of the most pressing challenges in public health: the opioid epidemic.

Moriarty participated in a panel, which also included the Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Jerome Adams, the Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse Dr. Nora Volkow and senior leaders at companies working in abuse prevention education. Moderator David Beier, Managing Director at Bay City Capital, kicked off the discussion asking how the public and private sectors are coming together to address this trend. Collaboration, data sharing, education and prevention were major themes that emerged in discussion, with each panelist offering insights into their unique role.

As part of the discussion, Moriarty outlined five key ways the company is proactively collaborating and investing to combat the opioid crisis. These include:

  1. Strengthening counseling for patients filling an opioid prescription
    Over the years, CVS Health has invested millions of dollars in training its 30,000 pharmacists to identify, address, prevent and counsel patients about opioid abuse. He also noted the company’s recent opioid announcement, which includes a robust safe opioid use education program in which pharmacists will counsel patients about the risk of dependence and addiction tied to duration of opioid use, keeping medications secure in the home as well as appropriate methods of proper disposal of unused medication.

  2. Instituting limits on the quantity of opioids dispensed to patients
    CVS Caremark, the company’s pharmacy benefits manager, recently announced enhanced opioid utilization management, aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guideline, to help ensure that opioids are being prescribed and used appropriately.

  3. Expansion of the company’s drug disposal collection program with the addition of kiosks at 750 retail pharmacies nationwide
    This expands efforts already underway where the company has partnered with law enforcement on local take-back programs to reduce the risks presented by unused opioids and as part of that effort has donated more than 800 medication disposal units to community police departments across the country. Moriarty also pointed out that this effort has resulted in the safe disposal of more than 100 metric tons of unused pills over the past two years.

  4. Working with states to expand access to the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone
    Over the past two years, CVS Health has worked to expand access to naloxone, a lifesaving drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, without individual prescriptions in 43 states. Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia referenced the value of his state’s partnership with CVS Health during the panel, noting the progress it has helped Virginia make in curbing opioid-related deaths.

  5. Educating students and parents through the Pharmacists Teach Program
    This community outreach program connects pharmacists with high school students to share vital information about the dangers of improper drug use and the consequences on teenagers’ lives. Thousands of CVS pharmacists have volunteered their time to deliver this program to nearly 300,000 students across the country, and, as Moriarty noted, the company has recently expanded the program to back-to-school nights to engage parents as well.

Solving the opioid crisis will not be easy and it will certainly take the concerted effort of patients, providers, payors, pharmacies, advocacy organizations, elected officials and community leaders to determine the best path forward.

For more information about our efforts in the fight against opioid abuse, visit our Prescription Drug Abuse information center and the CVS Health Impact Dashboard. And to stay informed about the most talked-about topics in health care, register for content alerts and our bi-weekly health care newsletter.