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ADA commends CVS Health in battling opioid epidemic

September 21, 2017

By David Burger

Woonsocket, R.I. — The ADA applauds retail pharmacy and health care organization CVS Health's Sept. 21 announcement that it is boosting its company-wide initiatives supporting safe drug disposal, utilization management of pain medications and funding for treatment and recovery programs, according to a CVS news release.

"The misuse and abuse of opioids is a public health crisis we have to work together to solve," said Dr. Gary L. Roberts, ADA president, in the release. "As prescribers of opioid pain medications, dentists can help keep these drugs from becoming a source of harm for patients, and the American Dental Association is absolutely committed to working with our fellow health organizations to promote the appropriate use and disposal of controlled substances. The ADA will do everything we can to help end this national emergency."

The company's increased efforts are a result of the country's escalating opioid crisis, said Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health, in the release. "As America's front door to health care with a presence in nearly 10,000 communities across the country, we see firsthand the impact of the alarming and rapidly growing epidemic of opioid addiction and misuse," he said. "Today we are announcing an expansion of our enterprise initiatives to fight the opioid abuse epidemic."

Mr. Merlo added, "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."

As of Feb. 1, 2018, outlined in the release, CVS Caremark — CVS Health's prescription benefit management subsidiary —  will roll out an enhanced opioid utilization management approach for all commercial, health plan, employer and Medicaid clients unless the client chooses to opt out. 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.

CVS pharmacies will also strengthen counseling for patients filling an opioid prescription with a safe opioid use education program highlighting opioid safety and the dangers of addiction, the release said. This clinical program will educate patients about the guidelines for opioid prescribing published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pharmacists will counsel patients about the risk of dependence and addiction tied to duration of opioid use, the importance of keeping medications secure in the home and methods of proper disposal.

In addition to limiting opioid dispensing, CVS Health will be expanding its Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program to a total of 1,550 kiosks, including 750 additional disposal units in pharmacies across the country with locations in Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and the District of Columbia this fall. CVS Health has previously donated more than 800 medication disposal units to local police departments in 43 states.

The CVS Health Foundation also committed $2 million to its investments in mitigating prescription drug abuse with support for federally qualified community health centers to increase access to medication-assisted treatment and other recovery services, the release said.  

Continuing the ADA's commitment to ending the opioid epidemic, Dr. Roberts noted President Donald Trump's statement identifying opioid abuse as a national emergency Aug. 10. Building upon the recommendations of a July 31 interim report from the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, President Trump instructed his administration to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic.

In the interim report, the commission reported that between 1999 and 2015, more than 560,000 Americans died due from drug overdoses. In 2015, nearly two-thirds of drug overdoses were linked to opioids like Percocet, OxyContin, heroin, and fentanyl. Since 1999, the number of opioid overdoses in America quadrupled, according to the CDC, the commission reported.

The report cited an overdose rate of 142 people a day.

"The ADA Practical Guide to Substance Use Disorders and Safe Prescribing," is available. Readers can save 15 percent on this book and all ADA Catalog products (including CDT 2018) with promo code 17154 until Nov. 17. To order, visit ADAcatalog.org or call 1-800-947-4746.
 
For more information about what these organizations are doing to battle the epidemic, visit cvshealth.com and ADA.org/opioids.