Across the country, many lives in the communities we serve are being touched by the opioid abuse epidemic. The problem is a complex one, with many causes and challenges, but CVS Health is working hard to address the effects of prescription drug abuse and prevent it from affecting more lives. We are committed to raising awareness through youth prevention education, making life-saving opioid overdose-reversing medication more readily available and encouraging safe medication disposal.
"Every year, more than 44,000 people in the United States die from accidental drug overdoses,” says Tom Davis, RPh, Vice President of Pharmacy Professional Practices at CVS Pharmacy. “Most of those deaths are from opioids, including controlled substance pain medication and illegal drugs such as heroin. Our strategy is to attack the problem from multiple angles, to help those who are already struggling with opioid addiction and abuse, and to prevent future tragedies.”
In collaboration with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, CVS Health operates the Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program, through which local police departments can apply to receive a drug collection unit. These receptacles give people the opportunity to dispose of unwanted medications, including controlled substances, that may otherwise be diverted, abused or contaminate our water supply. Since 2014, the program has donated more than 800 disposal units across the country and collected more than 100 metric tons of prescription drugs. Police departments can apply to receive a drug collection unit from the program here.
CVS Health is also focused on preventing teen drug abuse through our Pharmacists Teach program. This community outreach program connects local pharmacists with high school health classes to share vital information about the dangers of drug use. The program shares the powerful message that one choice changes everything, reinforcing that the decisions teens make today about drugs can affect their entire lives. CVS pharmacists have already delivered this impactful program to nearly 300,000 students across the country, and the feedback from administrators and students has been overwhelmingly positive. One high school principal in New York described the program as “an effective and powerful message toward preventing further tragedies in the community.”
CVS Health is also expanding access to naloxone, the opioid overdose-reversal medication. Our program makes naloxone available at CVS Pharmacy locations to patients without an individual prescription. Under a state- and physician-approved protocol, CVS Pharmacy locations in dozens of states now operate the program.
“Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdose. By expanding availability of this medication, we can save lives and give more people a chance to get the help they need for recovery,” says Davis.
Slowing and ultimately reversing the opioid abuse trend will not happen quickly, but CVS Health is committed for the long term. We will continue to work with lawmakers, law enforcement, educators, health care professionals, and the community at large to help people get and stay on their path to better health.
This article was originally published on March 2, 2016, and was updated to reflect current data on September 21, 2017.