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CVS Health Responds to Nation’s Opioid Crisis

September 21, 2017 | Pharmacy

Since the early 1990s, U.S. opioid prescribing rates have more than tripled, from 76 million in 1991 to 207 million by 2013. At the same time, the number of deaths from opioid overdoses has risen rapidly, quadrupling from 1999 to 2015.

Prescription and non-prescription opioid misuse is now considered among the most urgent health crises in our country. The opioid epidemic touches all of the communities we serve, and as a pharmacy innovation company, we are in a unique position to make a difference. So in addition to our legacy opioid-abuse prevention programs, we are adding a new suite of tools to face this crisis head on.

Increasing Disposal Options

Proper disposal of prescription medication is critical to keeping opioids out of the wrong hands. Over the past several years, we have donated more than 800 medication disposal units to community police departments across the country. Now, we’re adding an even more convenient option: in-store disposal units in 750 pharmacies, where consumers can drop off any unwanted and unused medication for free disposal, for a total of 1,550 units.

Educating Patients

Our pharmacists are always available for private patient consultations, but we’re strengthening counseling for patients receiving an opioid prescription for the first time with a robust safe opioid use education program. Pharmacists will discuss the risks of dependence and addiction tied to opioid use and answer any of the patient’s questions.

Ensuring Appropriate Use

CVS Caremark, our pharmacy benefits manager, is enhancing our utilization management program to ensure that opioids are being prescribed and used appropriately, consistent with the Guideline for Prescribing Opioids set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes:

  • Limiting to seven days the supply of opioids dispensed for certain acute prescriptions.

  • Limiting the daily dosage of opioids dispensed based on the strength of the opioid.

  • Requiring the use of immediate-release formulations of opioids before extended-release opioids are dispensed.

Supporting Community Health Centers

The CVS Health Foundation is adding a $2 million commitment to previous investments in mitigating prescription drug abuse with support for federally qualified community health centers that are delivering medication-assisted treatment and other addiction recovery and prevention services.

Raising Awareness

Through our Pharmacists Teach program, our pharmacists have shared the facts about opioid abuse with nearly 300,000 students. Now, we are expanding this commitment to prevention education by adding an opioid abuse prevention option for parents.

"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 and CEO of 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."

These initiatives build on our ongoing efforts to prevent and address opioid abuse, our work to increase access to the opioid-overdose reversal medication naloxone, and our ongoing advocacy to promote tools such as prescription drug monitoring programs, which help pharmacies and prescribers prevent abuse. Learn more about our opioid abuse prevention and mitigation strategies.

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