CVS Joins the Fight Against Opioid Addiction

Pharmaceuticals retailer CVS has announced a series of measures intended to prevent opioid overdose, as the crisis continues to grip the United States. 

The drug giant, which also operates the nation’s largest medication access portal Caremark, has committed to providing 750 medication disposal units at pharmacies. And the company has already contributed 800 units to police departments.

These disposal units are meant to encourage people to remove opioids they no longer need from their homes and to minimize the temptation of relying on unused opioids. They also reduce the dangers that other family members might abuse the drugs.

CVS has also announced that it will be “limiting to seven days the supply of opioids dispensed for certain acute prescriptions” and “limiting the daily dosage of opioids dispensed based on the strength of the opioid.”

Many public health advocates are encouraged by the move, as tightened restrictions on opioid supply can mean easier detection of reliance and addiction. And hopefully, more people can be helped to find appropriate treatment before they are at risk of overdose.

Commenting on the changes, CVS Health President and CEO Larry Merlo explained:

Without a doubt, addressing our nation’s opioid crisis calls for a multipronged effort involving many health care stakeholders, from doctors, dentists and pharmaceutical companies to pharmacies and government officials. With this expansion of our industry-leading initiatives, 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.

As Forbes notes, while these changes might initially appear minuscule, “the company has 9,700 retail pharmacies and more than 1,100 walk-in retail clinics. CVS Caremark PBM has nearly 90 million health plan members.”

That’s a significant reach, and CVS’s efforts to tighten restrictions and offer more options for opioid disposal are meaningful steps in addressing the opioid crisis.

Opioid overprescription has significantly contributed to the massive rise in opioid-related deaths in the U.S. since 1999. The CDC estimates that, from 2000 to 2015, more than half a million Americans have died from an opioid-related overdose, with around 91 Americans succumbing every day.

Those affected by the crisis have criticized drug companies for their role in this epidemic. Indeed, several states, including Ohio and Mississippi, are suing major pharmaceutical retailers for allegedly downplaying the addictive qualities of opioid treatment, attempting to influence scientific research to obscure the facts and overstating the pain management potential of the drugs.

Doctors have also been scrutinized for their role in exacerbating the crisis. A recent study suggests that medical professionals who received financial reimbursement from pharmaceutical companies for speaking engagements tended to have higher rates of prescribing opioids to patients. This research doesn’t claim that there’s a widespread issue with doctors pushing opioids, but rather a cultural problem in which opioids have not been given appropriate consideration.

While legal action continues, a number of other pharmaceutical companies have attempted to tackle the opioid overprescription problem.

For example, Express Scripts announced in June that it would introduce a “new Advanced Opioid Management” solution, in which patients are given various interventions — from receiving literature about opioid-related deaths to direct counseling in the form of a phone conversation with a specialist pharmacist. Express Scripts’ pilot study showed some significant benefits from this approach, and the company hopes that more will come from the program’s full implementation.

Nevertheless, critics maintain that this kind of action, while necessary, is a response to a problem that the industry itself created — and one that has cost people their health and livelihoods.

The Obama administration took significant steps to shape a federal response, working with Congress to formulate strategies for preventing fatal opioid overdoses — for instance, by keeping reversal drugs on hand in many at-risk locations.

While the Trump administration has promised to address this “national emergency,” so far officials have failed to put forward any concrete policy changes or strategies.

Photo Credit: Mike Mozart/Flickr

31 comments

Kelsey S
Kelsey S2 months ago

Good

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Marion F
Marion Friedl2 months ago

I hope the efforts of CVS´re successful, here´s something that din´t fit because my comment´s been too long and´s been cut:
Tilidin pills were too weak for my pains, so I got the stronger Targin pills then....

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Marion F
Marion Friedl2 months ago

Opioids´re a blessing and a curse at the same time, for me they´re a blessing because I have 5 auto immune diseases, osteoporosis, arthrosis and some chronic health issues like carpal tunnel syndrome in the left hand, tendonitis and epicondylitis in both arms/wrists etc., if you use it in the correct dose, for me that´s 1 Targin pill every 12 hours (plus-minus up to 6 hours if you can´t take them at the scheduled hour for some reason), so that my chronic pains´re bearable, but if people abuse it and take higher doses or take the opioids more often than prescribed by their doc they become addicted!!! At the beginning I had opioid plasters that I had to stick together after use, so no one could abuse the rest dose, but I became allergic against the plaster glue, so I got Tilidin pills first, and later Targin!!!

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Very interesting but ver sad article good live stuffed. Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

So many good lives wasted because of drugs. Despicable Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Deplorable and sickening Thank you for caring and sharing

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Freya H
Freya H2 months ago

Well, whaddaya know - a business that benefits from Big Pharma standing up to Big Pharma. Makes me want to shop at CVS. Good thing there is one within walking distance of my house.

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Kathryn I
Kathryn I2 months ago

Being a resident of Mississippi, we have an outstanding Democratic Attorney General (Jim Hood) here, and he has really been placing much emphasis regarding fighting opioids, so this State's inclusion in this lawsuit comes as no surprise. However, if it weren't for his fight in this regard, of course, I have no doubt that this issue would be utterly ignored. (Just as an aside, A.G. Jim Hood was the one who actually prosecuted the Klansman (Edgar Ray Killen), who masterminded the killings of those three Civil Rights Activists in Philadelphia, MS back in the day. To this very day, Killen is still rotting behind bars at the age of 93.)

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Good.

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Good.

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