The largest retailer in the country is taking action to curb abuse of prescription painkillers by limiting patients to a seven day supply of opioids.
Representatives for Walmart announced Monday that within the next 60 days, they will institute a one week limit for most prescription opioid medication at all Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies. The seven day supply will apply to all new patients receiving a first-time script of opioids intended to treat acute pain conditions, USA Today reported.
The restrictions mirror the decision by CVS Health in September 2017 to limit new patients with acute pain to a seven day supply of medication.
“We are taking action in the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic,” said Marybeth Hays, executive vice president of Health & Wellness and Consumables for Walmart U.S., according to USA Today. “We are proud to implement these policies and initiatives as we work to create solutions that address this critical issue facing the patients and communities we serve.”
The dosage for opioid prescriptions will be restricted to the equivalent of 50 morphine milligrams per day, the store said. Walmart is also pledging to require patients to use e-prescriptions for any controlled substances by 2020, which they said are easier to track and make script forgeries or alterations difficult.
Walmart initially entered the fight against opioid abuse in January with a safe pill disposal product that turns patients’ unused painkillers into a biodegradable gel. People filling opioid prescriptions for the first time at the retailer now receive a free packet of DisposeRx, a powder that helps render unused pills safe and useless. A free packet of DisposeRx will be offered to patients on certain classes of opioids every six months, with the goal of helping cut down on the misuse and abuse of opioids plaguing states across the country.
Nationally, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016. Opioids claimed 42,249 lives in 2016 — a 28 percent increase over the roughly 33,000 lives lost to opioids in 2015 — according to data released Dec. 21 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Opioid overdose made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer.
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