Better Public Policy on Opioids

Advocating for Legislation That Helps Fight the Opioid Epidemic
COMMENTARY
November 8, 2017
Senior Vice President, Government and Public Affairs, CVS Health

Pharmacy Industry Letter to President Trump

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Pharmacy Industry Letter to President Trump

Download Letter >

At CVS Health, we consider ourselves a part of the solution in helping end America’s abuse of painkillers. The widespread, nonmedical use of opioids is, indeed, a national public health emergency. It has no single cause and it doesn’t discriminate. It exists in our cities, in suburbs, and across rural America. Determining the best path forward to solve the crisis will take concerted effort from patients, physicians, insurers, pharmacies, advocacy organizations, elected officials, and community leaders.

In recognition of the need for pharmacy care providers to come together to address the opioid epidemic, CVS Health spearheaded a joint industry letter to the Trump Administration and key members of Congress, released this week. Signatories to the letter include CVS Health, Express Scripts Holding Co., Optum Inc., Walgreen Co., Rite Aid Corp., Magellan Health Inc. and Hy-Vee Inc. The letter highlights the steps the companies have taken, as well as our shared commitment to a public-private partnership to help solve the national health care crisis of opioid abuse.

At the Federal and State Level

In addition to a range of steps we have taken as an enterprise, CVS Health also advocates for policies that promote opioid safety, at the state and federal level. We frequently partner with industry associations such as the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association. We also work directly with legislators and policymakers to urge the adoption of public policies and legislation that can help ease the crisis. Measures and legislation we support that aim to prevent and end opioid abuse include: 

Pill bottle

Seven-day supply limit for initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain
Clinical evidence suggests that a longer, initial period of opioid use is associated with a greater risk of addiction. CVS Health has supported legislation in states around the country — including Indiana Senate Bill 226, New Jersey Senate Bill 3, Utah House Bill 50 and Virginia House Bill 1885 — that restricts the initial quantity of an opioid that can be prescribed. Nearly 20 states already have taken action to limit initial prescriptions for acute conditions.

Nurse

Requiring electronic prescriptions for opioids with limited exceptions
We support legislation mandating the electronic transmission of opioid prescriptions, which we believe would significantly reduce the likelihood of diversion through forged or fraudulent hard copy prescriptions. Federal action on this topic would be timely, as electronic prescribing of controlled substances is now allowed in all 50 states. Currently, only a reported 14 percent of controlled substance prescriptions are issued electronically.

CVS Health supports U.S. House Resolution 3528, the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act, which mandates electronic prescribing for controlled substances in Medicare Part D plans.

Building

Creation of a national prescription drug monitoring program
While all 50 states use prescription data to help identify and prevent drug abuse and diversion, program variances impact their effectiveness. A national prescription drug monitoring program would harmonize state requirements and more easily allow states to share data, which could prevent provider shopping across state lines. A national system also would set uniform expectations for health care providers and law enforcement.

What CVS Health is Doing

At CVS Health, we believe our company has a role in implementing programs that can help lead to a reduction in the number of unnecessary prescriptions for opioids, encouraging the removal and safe disposal of unused medications at home, and supporting treatment programs to help people struggling with addiction.

Building on our long-standing efforts:

  • In September, we launched an enterprise-wide initiative including an enhanced utilization management (UM) program for CVS Caremark pharmacy benefit management clients. It aligns with opioid analgesic prescribing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our UM strategy encourages clinically appropriate use of these powerful medications while lessening the risk of abuse, misuse and dependence.
  • CVS Pharmacy locations will offer enhanced first-fill counseling for patients new to opioid-based therapy.
  • CVS Health has donated drug disposal units to law enforcement agencies nationwide, resulting in the collection and safe disposal of more than 100 metric tons of unwanted medications. We also are adding 750 disposal kiosks to our retail pharmacies nationwide, bringing the total number of disposal units supplied by CVS Health to 1,550.
  • The CVS Health Foundation made an additional $2 million commitment to previous investments in mitigating prescription drug abuse by supporting community health centers providing medication-assisted treatment and other addiction recovery services.
  • CVS Health expanded the Pharmacists Teach opioid abuse prevention education program to a parent audience. To date, CVS pharmacists have have educated nearly 300,000 students about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs as part of our Pharmacists Teach program.

More needs to be done, on the legislative and policy front, now more than ever. We will continue to advocate for legislation and policies to help combat this epidemic, ensure appropriate care and help protect plan members and payors. We will continue to provide updates on our efforts.

Want to learn more about legislation that can help reduce opioid abuse? Ask Us
COMMENTARY
November 8, 2017
Senior Vice President, Government and Public Affairs, CVS Health

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