CVS Health expands fight against opioid abuse

CVS Health launched a new initiative in September to help fight the national opioid abuse epidemic by enhancing opioid utilization management, providing drug disposal kiosks nationwide and aiding local communities in treatment and recovery services.

Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health, said in a news release that addressing the nation’s opioid crisis calls for a multipronged effort involving many health care stakeholders, including dentists, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies and government officials. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the amount of opioids prescribed in 2015 was approximately three times higher than the amount prescribed in 1999.

“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,” Merlo said.

With the new initiative, CVS Caremark, a subsidiary of CVS Health that manages prescription benefits for health plan members, will roll out an enhanced opioid utilization management approach for all commercial, health plan, employer and Medicaid clients as of Feb. 1, 2018. This program will include limiting to seven days the supply of opioids dispensed for certain acute prescriptions for patients who are new to therapy; limiting the daily dosage of opioids dispensed based on the strength of the opioid; and requiring the use of immediate-release formulations of opioids before extended-release opioids are dispensed.

Additionally, CVS Pharmacy is expanding its drug disposal collection program to 1,550 units with the addition of kiosks at 750 retail pharmacies nationwide, adding to 800 units previously donated to law enforcement. And the CVS Health Foundation made an additional $2 million commitment to its previous investments in fighting prescription drug abuse with support for federally qualified community health centers to increase access to medication-assisted treatment and other recovery services.

CDA continues to educate members by promoting best practices and compliance with state and federal laws regarding opioid pain management. See CDA’s Practice Support resource on opioid pain management at cda.org/opioid.

Related Items

In California alone, opioid-related deaths from 2002 to 2014 were up almost 30 percent, and dentists prescribe up to 12 percent of all opioid prescriptions in the U.S. In light of these alarming statistics, the Dental Board of California in August 2017 finalized and adopted a policy statement recognizing the epidemic of opioid abuse in the U.S.

CDA has created a new online resource guide to help dentists meet requirements and follow best practices when prescribing opioids for the treatment of patients' dental pain. This resource is CDA's latest in ongoing efforts to address and combat California's opioid epidemic and ensure members have the most up-to-date information to maintain compliance in the dental practice.