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Walmart To Help Combat Opioid Abuse By Limiting Prescriptions To 7-Day Supply

May 08, 2018 01:14 AM EDT
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Walmart is taking a stand against opioid abuse, responding to the opioid epidemic by putting into place stricter prescription policies for the drug.

Walmart introduced their new initiative in an announcement on Monday, May 7.

Walmart's New Policies

Within the following 60 days, Walmart will be limiting initial acute opioid prescriptions to no greater than a seven-day supply with up to a 50 morphine milligram equivalent maximum per day.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, e-prescriptions will also be required for controlled substances. This type of prescription has been found to be less prone to human error since they can't be altered or copied. It's also trackable online.

"We are taking action in the fight against the nation's opioid epidemic," Marybeth Hays, executive vice president of Walmart's Health & Wellness and Consumables, says 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."

Other new regulations that will be in place by August include pharmacist access to controlled substance tracking tool Narxcare, naloxone recommendations for patients at risk of overdose, and training and education on opioid stewardship for Walmart pharmacists.

All the regulations are subject to state laws.

All Walmart and Sam's Club pharmacies and pharmacists in the United States and Puerto Rico will be putting the new policies in place.

Opioids In The United States

The opioid epidemic is a major problem in the nation with an average of 115 opioid-related deaths per day, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's been steadily getting worse over the years with the opioid overdose deaths in 2016 five times higher than in 1999.

Walmart's efforts could prove to make a difference.

However, CNN reports that a new study says that prescription monitoring may only offer a marginal effect in reducing opioid overdoses.

The study evaluated the changes in fatal and nonfatal opioid overdose incidents in states following the prescription drug monitoring programs between 1999 and 2016. Data was collected from all the states and the District of Columbia as well as 17 previous studies focused on the changes.

The researchers found that the findings of the different studies were inconsistent.

"Studies have come out in the past looking at reduced prescribing behavior, but we're taking it to the next level — looking at fatal or nonfatal overdoses," David Fink, lead author and social epidemiologist at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, explains to CNN. "And what we're seeing is that when you actually look at the literature, it isn't that strong to support [the programs]."

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