The pharmacy's move is an effort to stem the opioid epidemic by cracking down on the unnecessary use of prescription medications
CVS Caremark, one of the United States’ largest distributors of prescription drugs, announced on Thursday that they will limit prescriptions to opioids to seven days for certain patients.
The company says the move is an attempt to stem the opioid epidemic, which has claimed the lives of over half a million people since 1999, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, 15,000 people died from overdoses due to prescription opioids, and an estimated 2 million Americans abuse or are dependent on prescription opioids.
“As America’s front door to health care with a presence in nearly 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.
CVS says it will limit opioid prescriptions to seven-day supplies for new patients facing acute ailments effective in February of 2018. The company will also instruct pharmacists to contact doctors when a prescription seems stronger than is necessary.
In addition CVS will limit the daily dispensed based on the strength of the opioid and the use of immediate-release formulations of opioids before extended-release opioids are dispensed.
CVS handles prescriptions for approximately 90 million people, or about 28% of the U.S. population, according to a Fox Business News report.
The company paid $3.5 million in 2016 in to settle federal allegations that 50 of its pharmacies in Massachusetts and New Hampshire filled forged prescriptions for addictive painkillers and other controlled substances.
As part of the settlement, CVS entered into an agreement with the Drug Enforcement Agency to step up its programs for detecting the fraudulent distribution of controlled substances.
“Pharmacies have a legal responsibility to ensure that controlled substances are dispensed only pursuant to valid prescriptions,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz at the time of the settlement.
“When pharmacies ignore red flags that a prescription is fraudulent, they miss a critical opportunity to prevent prescription drugs from entering the stream of illegal opiates on the black market.