CVS Announces New, Stricter Opioid Prescription Limits

By Bryan Le 09/25/17

The massive pharmacy retail chain is hoping to stem the opioid crisis by cutting the supply of pills that leave stores.

A CVS storefront.
No loose painkillers here.

CVS is set to become the first pharmacy chain to restrict the amount of prescription painkillers it is willing to honor at a time, limiting patients to just a week’s supply.

The mega pharmacy retailer hopes that the restrictions can help to curb the amount of opioid painkillers in circulation throughout the U.S. The planned seven-day supply restriction is a big step down from the average 18-day supply prescribed by doctors in 2015.

CVS is planning to enact these new restrictions as soon as February 1, 2018 at all of its 9,700 locations.

'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,” said Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health.

Every person picking up a painkiller prescription will also get a talk from the pharmacists about the risk of addiction as well as how to properly store and dispose of the medicine. This way, CVS will try to do its part to make sure the pills don’t get into the wrong hands. CVS customers can also dispose of their old, unneeded medication at one of the 1,550 kiosks at CVS locations across the nation.

According to the CDC, most people who abuse prescription opioids get them from a friend or family member. Most are given, while others buy or steal them from loved ones’ medicine cabinets. With any luck, the plan should put a dent in the more than 15,000 deaths from prescription painkillers in 2015.

"Simply restricting access to opioids without offering alternative pain treatments may have limited efficacy in reducing prescription opioid abuse," said representatives from NIDA. However, it is a good first step.

This isn’t the first time CVS has enacted policies in the interest of public health.

It made naloxone, an emergency medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose, available for purchase without a prescription in 14 states.

Back in 2014, it also elected to stop selling cigarettes in CVS stores. 

“I think it will put pressure on other retailers who want to be in healthcare,” said Dr. Troyen Brennan, CVS Chief Medical Officer, about the decision.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter