CVS limits opioid prescriptions to fight epidemic

CVS Pharmacy, the largest pharmacy chain in the United States, took a step Thursday to curb the opioid overprescription that contributes to the country’s ongoing epidemic. 

"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," CVS Health representatives said in a statement.

That difference will include mandating that a single patient cannot be prescribed more than a seven-day supply of opioid medications at any one time, limiting the daily dosage a patient can be prescribed and requiring pharmacists to prioritize immediate-release formulas over extended-release counterparts.

Sales of prescription opioids increased exponentially between 1999 and 2014, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, driving overdose deaths up at nearly the same rate. Even today, the CDC estimated 20 percent of patients with non-cancer pain are prescribed opioid medication, and 75 percent of heroin users report that their first opioid use was a prescription drug. 

Placing stricter limits on prescription won’t be a silver bullet solution to the epidemic, but stemming the tide of opioids entering American homes can help prevent misuse and new addictions.

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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