Opioids: CVS Imposes Prescription Limits to Combat Epidemic

Another large pharmacy benefit manager, Express Scripts, previously announced it was planning to limit the supply and dosage of opioids for first-time patients, a move the American Medical Association warned was a "blunt, one-size-fits-all approach" that took treatment decisions away from the doctor and patient.

Beginning Feb. 1, CVS will roll out new controls to reduce opioid abuse, including counseling at the pick-up counter.

CVS is taking steps to combat the "rapidly growing epidemic of opioid addiction and misuse" by putting new restrictions on prescription painkillers. The average pill supply prescribed by USA doctors increased from 13 days in 2006 to 18 days in 2015, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the last 16 years, more than 183,000 Americans have died from overdoses related to prescription opioids.

Pharmacists will be asked to contact doctors when prescriptions appear to offer more medication than needed.


CVS pharmacists will also require immediate-release formulations of opioids before extend-release ones, lowering the tolerance risk to highly addictive medications.

The CVS announcement comes on the heels of a special publication released by the National Academy of Medicine, "First, Do No Harm", which calls on the leadership and action of doctors to help reverse the "course of preventable harm and suffering from prescription opioids".

CVS said this isn't a blame game.

The program does allow clients to opt out of the initiative, the release reported. "Community health centers have the unique ability to leverage their care teams, health information technology systems and quality infrastructure to support drug abuse control in their communities".

"The opioid epidemic touches all of the communities we serve, and as a pharmacy innovation company, we are in a unique position to make a difference".

  • Sylvester Abbott