12 Apr Pharmacy Giant CVS Fighting Prescription Drug Abuse
Americans are abusing prescription drugs at an alarming rate. Overdose fatalities linked to pills now constitute the number two cause for accidental death in the country. Emergency room and rehab facility admissions for opioid-related problems have gone up as well. One of the largest pharmacy chains in the nation is trying to stem the tide.
CVS Caremark, which employs 26,000 pharmacists, is the largest pharmacy chain in terms of total dollar prescriptions. Using their vast computer network, CVS is working to identify doctors with extraordinarily high volumes of opioid prescribing practices. By investigating prescribing habits CVS was able to identify physicians with questionable patterns.
By comparing prescription volumes and the types of drugs being prescribed within certain specialties and geographic regions, as well as the ages of patients and their payment methods, CVS was able to identify 42 possible problem prescribers. After closer scrutiny just six of the 42 were able to offer reasonable explanations for their high volume prescribing. CVS voluntarily decided to refuse to fill prescriptions for scheduled drugs written by the remaining 36 doctors. This is the type of principled action needed to reverse the trend of prescription drug abuse.
CVS Caremark has asked federal regulators to mandate electronic prescribing for scheduled drugs. This would make it nearly impossible for patients to obtain multiple prescriptions by visiting multiple doctors’ offices, a practice known as doctor shopping.
The pharmacy giant is also pushing for stronger prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), which are databases that doctors and pharmacists can use to identify patients that abuse prescription drugs. Currently 46 states use PDMPs. However, there is little communication between states, and participation in the programs is not always mandatory.
CVS also wants to make it easier for Americans to dispose of their unused medication. The company is cooperating with state and federal agents to improve drug take-back programs, as fewer drugs mean less chance for abuse.
There is still much room for progress in the battle against prescription drug abuse. CVS Caremark shows this is not a problem only for legislators and law enforcement to sort out. There is a place for everyone to do their part. By leading the way CVS is doing theirs.
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