Walmart Introduces Policies to Fight Opioid Abuse

Close-up of an opened prescription bottle, labelled as containing the opioid hydrocodone, as a number of its pills lie on a white surface, March 14, 2017. (Photo by Tom Kelley/Getty Images)
Tom Kelley/Getty Images

Walmart pharmacies will restrict some opioid prescriptions to just seven days at a time and will allow no more than a 50-milligram dosage of morphine per day.

The massive “superstore” chain will further require all controlled substances to have trackable electronic prescriptions by 2020 in a move to “continue to be part of the solution” to the national opioid epidemic. According to their official press release, “this policy is in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 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.”

Walmart U.S. Health & Wellness and Consumables Executive Vice President Marybeth Hays said, “We are taking action in the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic. 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.”

Still, these policies may be difficult to enforce across the spectrum of conditions for which patients are prescribed opioids, and it does not appear that the changes will apply to existing prescriptions or sufferers of chronic pain. With such a potential gap between stated intent and efficacy, the gesture may end up as little more than symbolic.

A Pennsylvania judge has criticized Walmart for being a “huge part of the problem” and “contributing to this [opioid] epidemic.” But his contention was that Walmart’s lax return policies were to blame and that people were illegitimately returning stolen merchandise to fund their addictions.

The opioid epidemic has dragged one million Americans out of the workforce and led the Surgeon General to urge everyone to carry overdose kits to help save lives. President Donald Trump has been extremely vocal about the gravity of the issue, going so far as to pitch the death penalty for drug dealers — an approach endorsed by former head of the National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and COO of the conservative Hudson Institute, John Walters.

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