In an effort aimed at curbing the national opioid epidemic, CVS Health announced Thursday that it would restrict the amount and strength of prescription painkillers provided to patients taking the drugs for the first time.
Starting in February, its prescription plan manager, CVS Caremark, which has 90 million plan members, will supply only seven days' worth of opioid medication to such patients. It will also limit daily dosages and require that immediate-release formulations of drugs be given before extended-release versions are prescribed, according to STAT, a national health news publication. The change does not apply to consumers whose prescriptions are not managed by CVS Caremark.
Doctors can request exemptions for certain patients. Employers and insurers who use CVS Caremark also can opt out of the program, according to the new policy. CVS Pharmacy sites will also offer counseling and education campaigns about opioid safety and addiction, and will add 750 more medication disposal kiosks at retail outlets around the country.
CVS said the new policy will follow guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year.
Increasingly, pharmacies and drug companies have come under fire for not doing enough to help stem the growing drug crisis, which often begins with prescription painkillers.
On Thursday, Delaware County joined a growing number of governments nationwide filing suit against manufacturers of addictive painkillers to recover costs of fighting the epidemic.