CVS limiting opioid prescriptions to 7-day supply

Posted September 23, 2017

This move makes CVS the pioneer among national retail pharmacy chains to limit the number of opioids physicians can prescribe.

"As America's front door to health care with a presence in almost 10,000 communities across the country, we see firsthand the impact of the alarming and rapidly growing epidemic of opioid addiction and misuse", said Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Health.

"Everyone has a role to play in addressing the opioid epidemic, and CVS Health is showing how the private sector can help", said Richard Baum, Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy. These include only filling prescriptions for a seven-day supply for "certain acute prescriptions"; limiting daily dosage of opioids based on its strength; and to filling prescriptions with immediate release formulations of opioids before extended-release options.

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CVS, based in Woonsocket, R.I., said the new rules will bring the company in line with prescribing guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention past year.

Dr. Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer for CVS, said the initiatives respond to a uniquely American problem.

Pharmacists will be instructed to contact doctors if they believe a prescription gives a patient more medication than is necessary to help with his or her recovery.

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Doctors can ask for exemptions for certain patients, CVS said, and employers and insurers can opt out of the program.

Increasingly, heroin and the illicit use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl are responsible for fatal opioid overdoses, but many cases of addiction begin with prescription painkillers.

CVS will also donate $2 million to community health centers that provide addiction treatment and install medication disposal units, where patients can safely throw out unused medication, in 750 of its locations.

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CVS' Our Pharmacists Teach program has reached out to about 300,000 students to discuss the dangers of opioid abuse and is planning to offer more education on the subject.