Walmart Announces Stricter Opioid Policies

By Beth Leipholtz 05/09/18

The company is set to implement new prescription opioid policies within the next 60 days.

Image: 
exterior of a Walmart

The fourth largest pharmacy chain in the country will soon be implementing changes to its handling of opioids.

On Monday, May 7, Walmart announced that within the next two months, it will begin filling first-time acute opioid prescriptions for a week or less and capping prescriptions at 50 morphine milligram equivalents (MME) daily. 

This decision comes after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that people who were prescribed at least one day of prescription opioids had a 6% chance of becoming dependent.

For those who were prescribed eight or more days, that number rose to 13.5%. The CDC also reports that those who were prescribed higher doses were also more likely to have a fatal overdose. 

Additionally, Walmart announced that by 2020, e-prescriptions will be required for all controlled substances in hopes of avoiding errors and prescription fraud.

"We are proud to implement these policies and initiatives as we work to create solutions that address this critical issue facing the patients and communities we serve," Marybeth Hays, executive vice president of Health & Wellness and Consumables, said in a statement.

These aren’t the first steps Walmart has taken in pushing back against the opioid crisis. 

At the beginning of 2018, the company began offering DisposeRx, a powder that can be combined with water and pills to safely destroy leftover medications. When announcing the new measures it would take, Walmart also announced that it would begin offering DisposeRx online. 

The company's pharmacies also carry naloxone, an overdose antidote. In some states this is available over the counter. 

Each of these steps align with Walmart’s Opioid Stewardship Initiative

“We have a comprehensive program with policies, programs and tools aimed at helping to curb opioid abuse and misuse,” the initiative reads. “We are committed to being part of the solution both in our pharmacies and in our communities.” 

While the changes have been largely applauded, some concerns about the policies have also been expressed. Dr. Steven Stanos, who previously served as resident of the the American Academy of Pain Medicine, told NPR that some patients may require more of the medication than allowed by these policies. 

"Setting a mandatory limit without giving physicians the ability to explain why a patient might need a longer prescription, interferes with the relationship between that person and their physician, who knows them better than the pharmacist," he said. 

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.

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