New Initiative Tackles Prescription Drug Abuse
Most people associate drug abuse with illegal substances, but the reality is that some of the most abused substances are available from drugstores across the country. Experts say there is a prescription drug abuse epidemic in the U.S. as use of controlled substances such as opioids has increased more than 300 percent between 1999 and 2010. More than 2.4 million people were considered to be opioid abusers in 2010.
This abuse has led to an increase in the number of fatalities. Overdose deaths increased from 4,000 annually to 16,600 during the same period. Such incidents are now the second leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. All of this has a huge impact on the health care system and communities all over the country.
One company is trying to mitigate the situation. CVS/pharmacy, through its CVS Caremark initiative, has tapped into its massive database to identify physicians and prescribers who exhibited extreme patterns of prescribing high risk drugs. The company studied their volume and share of prescriptions for high-risk drugs and compared to other providers in the same specialty and geographic region, as well as the ages of patients and their payment methods.
The program identified 42 outlying prescribers who were then asked to provide additional information about their prescribing habits. Of these, only six identified legitimate reasons for their unusual prescribing practices. As a result of the analysis and outreach, CVS Caremark suspended controlled substance dispensing through the company's CVS/pharmacy locations and the CVS Caremark Mail Service pharmacies for prescriptions written by the other 36 providers.
CVS Caremark is also working at the federal and state levels to implement policy changes to curb prescription drug abuse, including a mandatory electronic prescribing system, improved prescription drug monitoring and better prescription drug disposal systems to be put into place.
“Prescription drug abuse in this country may be an epidemic, but it doesn’t have to be. Government measures, on the local, state and federal levels, may begin to help put an end to this crisis. And the private sector can also do its part. With the help of policy makers and regulators, CVS Caremark is committed to advancing legislation, promoting technology and creating safer communities,” said Dr. Troy Brennan, of the CVS Caremark initiative.
Image credit: CVS Caremark