Amid national concerns about the effects of opioid addictions and the long-term effects of prescription pain medications, pharmacies across the country are buckling down on policies restricting what they will dispense.
MaxCare, an Oklahoma-based pharmacy organization group, released a statement regarding changes to Walmart’s policies regarding opioids. MaxCare’s release indicated that the national chain will implement a policy limiting initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain to a 7-day supply and no more than 50 morphine milligram equivalents per day.
“Acute” pain related opioid prescriptions will be determined by the dispensing pharmacist who will utilize pharmacy claims history, state prescription monitoring programs, and clinical judgement. Walmart has also stated all pharmacy staff will be receiving mandatory training on pain management by the end of August 2018. The limitations imposed by the new policy may impact those who fill opioid prescriptions at Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies.
Earlier this month, Walmart announced it would employ tools and update policies in an effort to curb opioid abuse and misuse.
“We are taking action in the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic,” said Marybeth Hays, executive vice president of Health & Wellness and Consumables, Walmart U.S. “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 company also plans to institute requirements for e-prescriptions for all controlled substances by January 1, 2020. E-prescriptions are proven to be less prone to errors, cannot be altered or copied, and are electronically traceable, according to Walmart’s May 7, 2018 news release.
In January, data released by the Wichita Mountain Prevention Network showed Carter County ranked second in the number of opioid prescriptions filled across the state. The state is also ranked fourth for deaths attributed to overdose on prescription opioids. Those deaths now outnumber those related to car crashes, according to WMPN.
Ardmore Police Department Deputy Chief Kevin Norris said he is hopeful the new policy will help curb overdoses in the community.
“Surely by reducing the amount of opioids dispensed in our community, it will reduce our calls for service that are related to prescription opioids, such as thefts, intentional or accidental overdoses,” Norris said. “I also look at the fact that there will not be as many unused opioids just laying around the house which, unless properly stored, could result in a child getting into the medication or a medication mix up. I hope in time that other large corporations will follow suit.”
CVS announced they would have similar restrictions in September 2017.  Walgreen’s launched an education program and social media outreach with the #ItEndsWithUs campaign.