CVS moves to limit opioid prescriptions

FILE - This Feb. 19, 2013 file photo shows OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. In a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in December 2015, drug overdoses in the U.S. rose again in 2014, driven by surges in deaths from heroin and powerful prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and Oxycontin. Overall, overdose deaths in the U.S. surpassed 47,000 — up 7 percent from 2013. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — CVS Caremark says it is taking measures to help curb the opioid crisis that is plaguing America right now.

In 2015, 52,000 people died from drug overdose–33,000 of those were from opioids alone. Since the early 1990s, U.S. opioid prescribing rates have more than tripled.

On Thursday, CVS announced it’s limiting opioid prescriptions, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, to a seven-day supply for certain conditions. The company is also limiting the daily dosage of opioids dispensed based on the strength of the drug.

NBC News reports CVS is the first national chain to put restrictions on how many pills doctors can prescribe patients at any given time.

CVS is also making sure its pharmacists help educate customers about the risk of dependency when using opioids.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, the average pill supply prescribed by doctors in the U.S. increased from 13 days in 2006 to 18 days in 2015. The report states patients are at risk of continuing opioids long-term once they have received them for more than five days, and are unlikely to discontinue use after they have received them for 90 days.

“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,” said Larry Merlo, President and CEO of CVS Health in a statement. “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.”

The company plans to roll out the new initiative on Feb. 1, 2018.

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