CVS Opioids
San Carlos, CA - Aug. 19, 2016. CVS Pharmacy. Originally named Consumer Value Store, CVS Pharmacy is now a subsidiary of the American retail and health care company CVS Health. (jejim / Shutterstock.com)

CVS announced a limit on all opioid prescriptions to a week supply. As a result, the major retail giant will be the first to do so following the outbreak of the opioid epidemic.

CVS Caremark, the company’s pharmacy benefits manager, is using their management program to limit opioid prescriptions to only allow a seven-day supply, limiting the number of opioids dispensed based on the strength of the drug, and requiring immediate-release formulations of opioids over extended-release opioids are dispensed. Also, the CBS Health Foundation has also added $2 million to previous investments to limit prescription drug abuse.

Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health said in a press release, “Without a doubt, addressing our nation’s opioid crisis calls for a multipronged effort involving many healthcare stakeholders, from doctors, dentists and pharmaceutical companies to pharmacies and government officials.”

Merlo added, “With this expansion of our industry-leading initiatives, we are further strengthening our commitment to help providers and patients balance the need for these powerful medications with the risk of abuse and misuse.”

Oxycodone CVS
Oxycodone is the generic name for a range of opoid pain killing tablets. Prescription bottle for Oxycodone tablets and pills on metal table for opioid epidemic illustration

This news comes after a July study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also found the average opioid pill supply administered by physicians in the U.S rose from 12-days in 2006 to 18-days in 2015. Moreover, since the 1990s, U.S. opioid prescription rates rose more than 300% from 76 million in the early 1990s to 207 million in 2013.

A June 2017 study by Blue Cross Blue Shield found from 2010 to 2016, the number of people diagnosed with an addiction to opioids rose to nearly 500%. According to the report, researchers found in 2010 there were 1.4 incidences of an opioid addiction among every 1000 members. But, by 2016 the number increased to 8.3 rates of opioid use disorder for every 1000 members. Meanwhile, there was only a 65% percent increase in the number of people receiving treatment for their addiction despite the rise of 493% opioid addicted members.