Walmart has announced that the company will roll out new restrictions on opioid prescriptions this summer at Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, and will require e-prescriptions for opioids by the year 2020. The move comes as the opioid epidemic continues to kill more and more Americans every year.
“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,” the company, America’s largest retailer, said in a statement.
“This policy is in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines for opioid use,” the statement continued. “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 announced that it will require electronic prescriptions for controlled substances by 2020, something that Walmart insists makes it harder for people to forge a paper prescription. Walmart also said that it will conduct new training sessions for its pharmacists on opioids, though didn’t go into detail on what that will look like.
The Trump regime has promised to implement new policies to help fight America’s opioid epidemic, but so far, there hasn’t been much to show for it. The Government Accountability Office released a new report last month explaining that the government’s approach thus far, which looks a lot like the old-fashioned War on Drugs, isn’t doing much at all.
And there’s concern from some in the public health community that reducing doses or curtailing access to pain medication could just cause more suffering for people with chronic illnesses.
“The CDC Guideline does NOT say to reduce such patients’ doses against their will, but legislators, health systems, and quality metric agencies have read it that way,” Stefan Kertesz, a clinical researcher in addiction at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told Gizmodo back in March when the Trump plan included threats of everything from restricting doses of pain medication in hospitals to the death penalty for people who over-prescribe.
“We clearly need supply-side clampdowns to rein in an out-of-control pharmaceutical industry and to repair medical and pharmacy institutions warped by their influence,” Kertesz said. “However, blunt, broad, one-size-fits-all versions of these policies could be incredibly damaging in a variety of ways, and very little that Trump has said makes me think he is interested in careful, nuanced policy implementation.”
There’s so much money on the line, it’s tough to believe that anything like a “nuanced policy” is in America’s future. Purdue Pharmaceuticals, just one company of many that’s profiting from the opioid epidemic, has made roughly $35 billion since 1995 on OxyContin alone. But the company insists that it’s cutting back on its OxyContin sales and marketing by slashing staff in that department.
Companies like Walmart say they’re doing their best to crack down on the opioid epidemic in the only ways that they know how. And even with so much money at stake, the average American wants to take them seriously.
“We are taking action in the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic,” Marybeth Hays, executive vice president of Health & Wellness and Consumables at Walmart, 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.”
After all, it’s tough for Walmart to make more money on stuff like groceries and clothes if all your customers are dead.