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CVS takes new steps to fight opioid abuse

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WOONSOCKET, R.I.— CVS Health has rolled out a sweeping plan that utilizes its integrated pharmacy assets to help battle drug misuse and abuse, namely opioid painkillers. The program would also boost funding for addiction programs, counseling and safe disposal of opioids.

“As America’s front door to health care with a presence in nearly 10,000 communities across the country, we see firsthand the impact of the alarming and rapidly growing epidemic of opioid addiction and misuse,” CVS Health president and chief executive officer Larry Merlo said. “Today we are announcing an expansion of our enterprise initiatives to fight the opioid abuse epidemic that leverages CVS Pharmacy’s national presence with the capabilities of CVS Caremark, which manages medications for nearly 90 million plan members.”

CVS Caremark plans to roll out an enhanced opioid utilization management program for all commercial, health plan, employer and Medicaid clients as of February 1, 2018, unless clients choose to opt out.

The initiative includes limiting to seven days the supply of opioids dispensed for certain acute prescriptions for patients who are new to therapy, as well as limiting the daily dosage of opioids dispensed based on the strength of the opioid. Also, the program will require the use of immediate-release formulations of opioids before extended-release opioids are dispensed.

CVS also plans to expand its Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program to a total of 1,550 kiosks, including 750 more disposal units at CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide this fall.

Separately, CVS rival Walgreens announced plans for a new marketing campaign called #ItEndsWithUs, aimed at educating teenagers about the danger of opioids.

The campaign was unveiled by actor Brandon Larracuente of the popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” and “Bloodline,” who lost a close friend to the opioid epidemic.

The initiative provides teens with resources and positive steps they can take in their community, all available at the #ItEndsWithUs online hub. At the site, visitors are greeted with a message from Larracuente and a personal testimonial from Francesca Paparone, a young woman who overcame her addiction and is working with Walgreens to raise awareness. In their messages, they speak about Walgreens’ safe medication disposal program.


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