The behemoth hypermarket, Walmart, made a bold move against in the fight against the opioid crisis. The company's pharmacies have announced that they will be limiting the supply of first-time opioid prescriptions for acute pain to one week – just seven days.

According to the announcement, the initiative is set to start in 60 days. Additionally, the policy also applies to Sam's Club, which is owned by Walmart.

“We are taking action in the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic,” Marybeth Hays, Walmart’s executive vice president of health and wellness and consumables, 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.”

Furthermore, the supermarket chain will be restricting the dosage to a maximum of 50 morphine milligram equivalents per day. By January 1st of 2020, they will also require e-prescriptions for controlled substances.

Walmart's new policy coincides with the scrutiny facing prescription of the drug. Given that reportedly 116 people die every day from opioid-related overdoses and 11.5 million people have misused prescribed opioids, an increasing number of policymakers and healthcare professionals have placed limits on such prescriptions.

While widespread support for the limitations on prescriptions has paved the way for mitigating the crisis, there are some who disagree with the policies.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has argued that the limits are arbitrary and may actually hurt a doctor's ability to care for individual patients.

The AMA “supports and encourages judicious prescribing of opioids,” Dr. Patrice Harris, the chairwoman of the association’s opioid task force, told The Hill. Conversely, the AMA disagrees with the limitation trend.

“Pain is a complex, biopsychosocial phenomenon, and individuals experience pain in different ways,” Harris said “The AMA believes that decisions around dosages needs to be left between the patient and the physician.”

While the opioid crisis is a global problem, the numbers of domestic cases of opioid abuse outpace those of any other country. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 42,000 people died due to opioid-related causes in 2016 with roughly 40% of those cases being prescribed users.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute on Drug Abuse have outlined their priorities, which include the following:

  1. Improving access to treatment and recovery services through overdose-reversing drugs.
  2. Researching the epidemic through public health surveillance and researching pain and addiction.
  3. Researching technologies to treat opioid use disorder.
  4. Improving overdose prevention and reversal interventions to save lives.

Notably, the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative has been put in place, which is an aggressive effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the epidemic.


H/T: The Hill