With the 64,000 deaths from opioid overdoses last year alone, the medical community is struggling to contain the out-of-control opioid epidemic. Now, CVS, one the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit managers that oversees prescription drug benefits for 90 million people through its CVS Caremark plan, is attempting to address opioid abuse by no longer reimbursing opioid prescriptions beyond the first week for people filling these prescriptions for the first time.
Beginning in February, the company announced, it will adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines for prescribing opioids that limit doses and duration of the drugs prescribed by doctors. The CDC recommends prescribing the painkilling narcotics, which can be highly addictive, in as low a dose as possible for as short a time as needed. Not only will CVS Caremark only reimburse for seven days of prescriptions, but for first-time opioid prescription-fillers it will also dispense short-acting, rather than extended release, versions of the drugs for these patients.