In an effort to stem America’s opioid emergency, pharmacy giant CVS has announced it will limit opioid prescriptions to 7 days. But will that be enough to make a dent in an addiction and overdose crisis that is seemingly spiraling out of control?
Starting in February, if you’re new to pharmaceutically-based pain management and you fill your prescriptions at CVS, you’re getting one week max of opioid treatment. It’s the latest step by private industry to try and rein in what is becoming a legitimate public health crisis: opioid addiction. We’ve written in the Urgent 9 blog before about what this health emergency is doing to communities across America, but this latest development is unique in that it’s an example of big business trying to change their policies before waiting for additional legislation.
And make no mistake, this will have an impact. CVS is absolutely huge: it has nearly ten thousand pharmacies across the country servicing 90 million plan members. Since 1999, opioid sales have increased by approximately 400%. It’s a perfect storm of overly lax prescribing guidelines coupled with increasingly powerful pill formulations that are simply too desirable for the average person’s brain chemistry to resist. Let’s not forget: these pills may have obscure sounding names like Vicodin or Oxycontin, but chemically speaking they’re nearly identical to some other substances you may have heard of: heroin and morphine. And much like their street-level counterparts, prescription opioids are incredibly easy to get hooked on… and ultimately overdose on.
Drug overdoses — and particularly opioids — are the number one cause of unintentional death in the United States, according to the CDC. That’s a shocking statistic, and while it might not fully hit home for you unless the opioid crisis has personally affected your family or community, it’s a morbid reality for millions of people all across our country.
The government seems unsure what to do about it, while big pharma players try to downplay the risks associated with these drugs’ use. After all, there is no question: opioids are absolutely one of the most effective ways to provide relief from pain. However, they also cause a sense of overwhelming euphoria and well-being — and this feeling can become addictive for the person taking the drug in very short order.
In addition to their new one-week prescribing guideline, CVS is committing $2 million to various addiction recovery services and is planning to counsel all patients with a new opioid prescription about the risks inherent in their new medicine. Perhaps being told up front that 142 Americans die each day of an opioid overdose can cause some people to be more careful about the way they medicate themselves with these incredibly potent drugs.