CVS –the retail pharmacy chain most known for its move to stop selling cigarettes in 2014 has made another bold move. With the growing use of opiates, CVS is looking to help combat the epidemic by limiting opioid prescriptions to a 7-day supply. Larry J. Merlo, the President and CEP of CVS Health stated the company wants to help providers and patients “balance the need for these powerful medications with the risk of abuse and misuse.” To do this, CVS will now require pharmacists to talk to patients about the risks of addiction, secure storage of medications in the home and proper disposal.
One in three Americans, or 91.8 million Americans used opioid pills in 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. More than 15,000 people died from the prescription opioid overdose in 2015, according to the CDC. Simply restricting access to opioids without offering alternatives to pain treatments may have limited efficacy in reducing in reducing prescription opioid abuse, that’s why CVS has also pledged to increase its commitment to community health centers by bolstering contributions to medication-assisted treatment programs by $2 million.
The CVS Announcement comes on the heels of a special publication releases by the National Academy of Medicine, “First, Do No Harm,” which calls on the leadership and action of doctors to help reverse the “course of preventable harm and suffering from prescription opioids.”
But CVS and the medical field aren’t alone in their plight to help end the opioid epidemic. Earlier this week, a coalition of 41 state attorneys general served five major opioid manufacturers with subpoenas demanding information on these drugs. The investigation subpoenas and document requests were serves to pharmaceutical manufacturers Endo International, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd./Cephalon Inc., Allergan and Purdue Pharma. They also requested information from major pharmaceutical distributors: AmeriSourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, who together had $400 billion in profits last year. The attorneys general are hoping to learn whether these companies may have marketed or distributed their opioid products illegally.
While 41 states are involved in the multistate coalition, some states have filed lawsuits on their own: Oklahoma, Ohio, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and South Carolina have filed suit against big pharmaceutical companies and distributors.
The move by CVS and state attorneys general show the necessity of the multi-dimensional solution needed to conquer opioid abuse and are part of the long-awaited step in the right direction.