By Pat Anson, Editor
Walmart has announced plans to restrict opioid prescriptions for short-term acute pain to no more than a 7-day supply.
The new policy, which is similar to one already adopted by CVS, will begin “within the next 60 days” and be implemented at all Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies in the United States and Puerto Rico.
“We are taking action in the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic,” Marybeth Hays, executive vice president of Health & Wellness and Consumables for Walmart U.S. 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.”
In addition to the 7-day limit on opioids for acute pain, Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacists will also limit the dose to no more than 50 morphine milligram equivalent (MME) units per day. The company said its policy was “in alignment” with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s opioid guidelines.
However, those 2016 guidelines are voluntary and only intended for primary care physicians who are treating chronic pain. They say nothing at all about pharmacists being required to limit the dose or duration of opioid prescriptions for acute pain:
“When opioids are used for acute pain, clinicians should prescribe the lowest effective dose of immediate-release opioids and should prescribe no greater quantity than needed for the expected duration of pain severe enough to require opioids. Three days or less will often be sufficient; more than seven days will rarely be needed.”
Several states have already adopted policies that limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain to seven days or less. Walmart said when state law limits prescriptions to less than seven days, Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacists will follow state law.
The company’s pharmacists will also be trained and required to counsel patients about the CDC’s guidelines, while “focusing on using the lowest effective dose for pain management for the shortest time possible.”
In 2020, Walmart and Sam’s Club will also require e-prescriptions for controlled substances such as opioids. The company said e-prescriptions are less prone to errors, cannot be altered or copied, and are electronically trackable.
By the end of August 2018, Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacists will also have access to a controlled substance tracking system called NarxCare. NarxCare analyzes a prescription database to provide pharmacists with a patient’s “risk score” for potential drug abuse.