CVS Health is doing its part to help fight the national opioid epidemic, which accounted for more than 50,000 deaths last year alone.
The company announced Thursday it would be making changes to the way it provides opioid prescriptions. CVS Pharmacy will also be expanding its drug disposal collection program to help make sure unwanted medication doesn't get misused or abused. In addition, the drug store chain said it would boost funding for addiction programs, counseling and other recovery services.
Here are 5 details to know about the CVS announcement:
1. The company's prescription drug management division, CVS Caremark, which provides medications to nearly 90 million people, is limiting initial opioid prescriptions to seven day supplies to new patients with certain acute conditions, such as a minor surgery or dental procedure. The new guideline does not limit patients being treated for chronic pain. None of the opioid limits apply to patients with cancer, according to a CVS Health spokesperson. CVS current follows the CDC Guideline for opioid prescriptions.
2. The program will also limit the daily dosage of opioids dispensed based on the strength of the opioid. In addition, it will require the use of short-period pain relief opioids before providing extended-release opioids.
3. The new approach applies to all commercial, health plan, employer and Medicaid clients by February 1, 2018, unless a client chooses to opt out.
4. CVS Health is nearly doubling the number of drug disposal units in its Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program to a total of 1,550 kiosks. The expansion begins this Fall with locations in Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and the District of Columbia. CVS Health previously donated more than 800 disposal units to local police departments in 43 states. More than 100 metric tons of unwanted medication was disposed through the program in the past two years.
5. The program will empower pharmacists to educate patients about the risks of dependency with opioid use and instruct on how to safely secure opioids in the home. Pharmacists will also contact doctors when they encounter prescriptions that appear to offer more medication than would be necessary for a patient's recovery.