Walmart, at the beginning of this week announced regulations regarding filling opioid prescriptions in its own in-store and Sam’s pharmacies. The company as part of its Opioid Stewardship Initiative has vowed to curb not only opioid addictions but also prevent their overdosages and prevent the over-prescription of opioids by doctors.
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According to a report this March from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdoses from opioids has risen by 30 percent between 2016 and 2017. Marybeth Hays, executive vice president of Health & Wellness and Consumables 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.”
Walmart’s pharmacy chain is the fourth largest and in the next two months it is set to cap acute painkiller supplies not to be dispensed for over seven days at a time. Per day capping of opioid dose would be less than the equivalent of 50 morphine milligrams. In some states the maximum allowed limits are less than seven days. Walmart has announced that it would stick to the law in these states.
These new policies are in line with the CDC recommendations from 2016. The recommendations state that physicians need to prescribe within the “lowest effective dose” for each of the individuals. In a few months another new technology called Narxcare is slated to be in place. This would mean that the pharmacists would be able to track controlled substances with “real-time interstate visibility.”
Naloxone, an antidote to opioid overdose would also be stocked at pharmacies to prevent overdosage related deaths. Naloxone, where legal, would be sold over-the-counter on request. According to the NPR, this is already in place and retail sales of this antidote has risen by ten times between 2013 and 2015 and this is an indication of the overdose potential of the opioids.
By January 2020, the company is slated to make electronic prescriptions mandatory for sale of controlled substances. They stated, “E-prescriptions are proven to be less prone to errors, they cannot be altered or copied and are electronically trackable.”
All patients visiting Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacy for Class II opioid prescription filling would now receive a free DisposeRx packet along with opioid safety information brochure. This would allow patients to dispose off of their unused opioids safely at home.
Walmart is also planning to start additional training, awareness and educational programmes on opioid stewardship for its pharmacists. This could include a curriculum on pain management.