Bentonville, Arkansas, USA: Walmart, and it’s wholesale club subsidiary, Sam’s Club, are implementing initiatives they believe will help address the opioid epidemic and will – in the next 60 days – begin imposing the seven day limit on prescriptions for acute pain at their pharmacies, along with a mandate that the medications top out at 50 morphine milligrams per day – the retail giants said Monday.
In states where supplies are required to last less than a week, Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies will comply.
“We are taking action in the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic,” MarybethHays, executive vice president of Health & Wellness and Consumables for Walmart U.S. said in a statement. “We are proud to implement these policies and initiatives as we work to create solutions that address this critical issue facing the patients and communities we serve.”
The new policy focuses on initial acute prescriptions, not prescriptions for chronic pain.
This new policy follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, guidelines which recommends no more than a seven-day supply for initial acute prescriptions and does not apply to prescriptions for chronic pain.
National pharmacy retailers have increasingly become proactive in addressing the wave of opioid addiction that has decimated communities across the U.S., providing services ranging from counseling to sites and methods that allow for the safe disposal of medications.
CVS Health said in September that it would limit opioid prescriptions to seven-day supplies for new patients with particular acute conditions.
And while Walgreens pharmacies provide kiosks where people can dispose of unused medications, and some CVS Health pharmacies also have disposal boxes, Walmart has gone a step further providing packets that enable patients to safely toss out unused opioid medicines at home.
Another change coming to Walmart and Sam’s Club will be a requirement as of Jan. 1, 2020 that controlled substances have e-prescriptions, a format that makes it more difficult to alter or copy a script, while also making prescriptions easier to monitor.
The abuse of and addiction to prescription opioids is a serious public health issue in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 2 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers.
Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated that nearly 19 million Americans aged 12 or older had abused or misused prescription drugs in the past year. Sometimes cases of misuse are accidental: In 2016, 23,872 cases of improper medicine use reported to Poison Control Centers involved accidental exposure to another person’s medicine.
Overprescribing and the subsequent stockpiling of these drugs contributes to America’s opioid epidemic, which President Trump declared a Nationwide Public Health Emergency last October.
Many people don’t even know when they have been prescribed an opioid. This class of drugs includes a number of well-known medicines, including Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, and morphine drugs such as Avinza, Dolphine, Butrans, Embeda and Kadian .
Walmart is the third largest pharmacy chain in the U.S. behind CVS and Walgreens