CVS Health announced today the latest milestones in the company’s more than six year effort to help address and prevent prescription opioid abuse and misuse. Over the past several months, the company has dramatically increased access to safe medication disposal sites, helped its clients reduce opioid utilization for members when clinically appropriate, strengthened pharmacist-led patient counseling on safe opioid use, partnered with schools to educate students and parents about abuse prevention and provided financial support for community addiction recovery programs at health centers nationwide. These accomplishments follow an announcement last September that the company would further enhance its response to prescription opioid abuse and misuse.
“Because our pharmacists serve patients in communities all across the country, we have a deep and personal understanding of the effects of prescription opioid abuse – and a strong commitment to continue addressing it,” said Thomas Moriarty, Chief Policy and External Affairs Officer, CVS Health. “The diverse programs we have in place to increase access to safe medication disposal, help educate patients and communities, and help clients manage opioid utilization have made real and meaningful impacts for our patients and we are proud of the progress we have made and will continue to make.”
The company said today it has completed installation of 750 safe medication disposal units in CVS Pharmacy locations, adding to the more than 900 units it has donated to local law enforcement. In total, the company has facilitated more than 1,650 units nationwide, which have collected more than 436,000 pounds, or 198 metric tons of unwanted medication. Increasing community access to safe medication disposal helps rid homes of unused medications that could otherwise be diverted, abused or contaminate the water supply if disposed of improperly.
CVS Caremark, the company’s pharmacy benefit management (PBM) business, has implemented criteria to help adopting clients manage opioid utilization in a manner consistent with the Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC-aligned criteria offered by CVS Caremark include covering a 7-day supply of opioid therapy, or less, for patients new to opioid therapy with an acute condition. For clients adopting this utilization management criteria, the number of prescriptions covered for more than a 7-day supply decreased by 71.9 percent. Among those clients, the number of prescriptions covered for a 7-day supply or less is now 94.3 percent.
Additionally, following work to enhance counseling for retail pharmacy patients new to an opioid prescription, CVS Pharmacists have counseled nearly 3 million patients about recommendations for safe opioid use and the dangers of addiction over the past five months. These recommendations align with the CDC Guideline, instructing patients about using the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible duration, understanding the risk of dependence, keeping medications secure in the home and methods of proper disposal of unused medication.
CVS Pharmacy has also implemented an industry-leading program to increase access to the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone in 47 states. In those states, the life-saving medication is available to patients at CVS Pharmacy locations, without an individual prescription. Following the Surgeon General’s Advisory on Naloxone and Opioid Overdose issued in April 2018, the company has further expanded its ongoing efforts to educate patients about naloxone. As part of this campaign, all CVS Pharmacy locations now have in-store signage and in-store radio messages to educate patients about the availability and accessibility of the life-saving drug.
Through the company’s prevention education program, Pharmacists Teach, CVS Pharmacists have worked with schools and local community groups to educate teens and parents about the dangers of teens misusing prescription drugs. Across the U.S., CVS Pharmacists have volunteered their time to deliver this curriculum, developed with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, to nearly 400,000 teens and parents since fall of 2015.
Over the last six months, the company has also enhanced its commitment to supporting addiction recovery programs, providing grants to 21 community health centers across the U.S. that deliver medication-assisted treatment and other addiction recovery services. The program will reach nearly 350,000 patients and support 115 physicians working to increase access to medication assisted treatment. Additionally, these investments work to ensure clear, safe and effective protocols for opioid prescriber practices; to strengthen and systematize partnerships with specialists and community based organizations; and to help create safe, non-judgmental environments for all patients.