Walmart Inc. says it will take more steps to reduce opioid medication abuse and misuse.
Earlier this year, the company announced free opioid medication disposal in all its U.S. pharmacies.
On Monday, the company said that within the next 60 days, Walmart and Sam’s Club will restrict initial acute opioid prescriptions to no more than a seven-day supply, with up to a 50 morphine milligram equivalent maximum per day.
This policy follows U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for opioid use. Where state law for fills on new acute opioid prescriptions is less than seven days, Walmart and Sam’s Club will follow state law.
The company also said that as of Jan. 1, , Walmart and Sam’s Club will require e-prescriptions for controlled substances. Along with reducing the risk of errors, e-prescriptions cannot be altered or copied and are electronically trackable, according to the company.
It also said that by the end of August 2018 in states where permitted, Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacists will have access to and use the controlled substance tracking tool, NarxCare, to help them make dispensing decisions.
The company also said it will have the opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone behind the pharmacy counters of its stores and clubs and dispensing naloxone upon request, where allowed by state law.
Also, the company said its pharmacists provide CDC-directed naloxone recommendations for patients who might be at risk for opioid overdose.
In a related development, it has been reported that prescription drug monitoring programs are touted as a way to reduce overdoses from opioid painkillers, but they might have the unintended effect of increasing heroin overdose deaths, researchers say.
They reviewed 17 studies that assessed the impact of these programs and found that 10 of them linked the programs to reductions in opioid overdose deaths. But three studies found that heroin overdose deaths rose after the programs were implemented.
“This suggested to us that heroin substitution may have increased after … restrictions on opioid prescribing,” said study co-senior author Dr. Silvia Martins, an associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s School of Public Health in New York City.
“We therefore caution that programs aimed at reducing prescription opioids should also address the supply and demand of illicit opioids,” Martins said in a university news release.
The study was published online May 7 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
Edited by: JV Staff