CVS Pharmacy Looks To Curb Painkiller Addiction With Strict Supply Limits

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The largest pharmacy chain in the U.S. is enacting strict restrictions on patient supplies for opioid painkillers in an effort to curb addiction rates amid record drug deaths.

Pharmacies will start limiting prescriptions for opioids to a seven day limit, CVS Pharmacy announced Thursday, making the company the first national pharmacy chain to govern how many prescriptions a doctor can write for a patient. The goal is to help stem the rising ride of addiction impacting states and localities throughout the country, reports NBC News.

The shift in policy will also require pharmacists to discuss the proper usage of painkillers and the risks of addiction associated with the medications. CVS operates 9,700 retail stores across the U.S. handling prescriptions for roughly 90 million Americans.

“Without a doubt, addressing our nation’s opioid crisis calls for a multipronged effort involving many health care stakeholders,” Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health, said in a statement Thursday. “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.”

The pharmacy will also expand a drug disposal collection program and increase funding by $2 million to medication-assisted addiction treatment programs. Five percent of Americans report taking prescription opioid medication without a doctor’s permission, contributing to America’s addiction epidemic, researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse say.

CVS’s new policy will drastically cut down on the number of painkillers a doctor prescribes for patients, who received an average of an 18-day supply from their doctors in 2015.

The National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released its first preliminary report in August giving an accounting of drug overdose deaths in 2016. Drug deaths rose by more than 22 percent in 2016, with 64,070 Americans overdosing that year, the CDC estimates. Opioid deaths rose from 33,000 in 2015 to nearly 50,000 in 2016.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.

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Steve Birr