CVS Caremark urges controlled prescribing to combat prescription drug abuse

September 17, 2013

In order to help combat the national prescription drug abuse epidemic, CVS Caremark is tapping its extensive database to identify and halt inappropriate prescribing of high-risk drugs such as opioid painkillers.

In order to help combat the national prescription drug abuse epidemic, CVS Caremark is tapping its extensive database to identify and halt inappropriate prescribing of high-risk drugs such as opioid painkillers.

By evaluating data on prescriptions filled at CVS/pharmacy, CVS Caremark identified providers with extreme patterns of prescribing such high-risk drugs and suspended controlled substance dispensing for those who could not justify their prescribing habits, according to a perspective published online first and in the September 13, 2013, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The use of controlled substances has increased dramatically, with prescriptions for opioids jumping more than 300% between 1999 and 2010. Overdose deaths increased from 4,000 annually to 16,600 during the same period. Such overdoses are now the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States and more than 2.4 million people were considered to be opioid abusers in 2010.

CVS Caremark identified problem prescribers by studying their volume and share of high-risk drugs versus 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 6 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,” according to Troyen Brennan, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer, CVS Caremark.

Prescription drug abuse in this country is an epidemic, but it doesn’t have to be,” Dr Brennan added. “CVS Caremark is committed to mitigating prescription drug abuse by advancing legislation, promoting technology, and creating safer communities.”

While this program is not a comprehensive solution to prescription drug abuse,  Dr Brennan said, it is an important first step that is in line with the ethical duty pharmacists have to ensure that a prescription for a controlled substance is appropriate.

“We know there are many ways to fight prescription drug abuse and we are committed to continuing to identify solutions to stop the improper use of controlled substances,” Dr Brennan said. “We’re calling on lawmakers and regulators at the state and federal levels to enact policy changes that mandate more transparency into controlled substance prescribing, such as mandatory use of electronic prescribing, and a national, uniform program for prescription drug monitoring.”