CVS pharmacy cuts off access to powerful painkillers to 36 healthcare providers

by Charles Miller

The drugstore chain CVS has announced that is cutting off access to powerful painkillers for at least 36 doctors and healthcare providers that CVS believes have been prescribing the drugs at an alarmingly high rate. CVS announced the suspensions on the website of the New England Journal of Medicine. The suspensions followed an analysis of prescriptions brought to CVS drugstores over a two-year period for hydrocodone, oxycodone, alprazolam, methadone and carisoprodol.

According to CVS, the company first identified providers with extreme patterns of prescribing high-risk drugs. Then CVS checked those provider’s prescription rates versus others in the same specialty and geographic region, the ages of the patients and the number of patients paying with cash for the drugs. For instance, one “outlier prescriber” was prescribing 44,000 doses of high-risk drugs compared with an average of 662 doses for similar providers.

Ultimately, CVS asked 42 providers for more details about their prescribing habits. CVS determined that six of those provided legitimate reasons for the high volume of prescriptions; one example was a medical director at a hospice prescribing painkillers. The company will no longer dispense controlled substances for the 36 providers who CVS determined were unable to justify their prescribing habits.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, 37,792 people died from overdoses and other drug-related causes in 2010. Overdose deaths involving opioid painkillers have steadily increased over the last eleven years: starting with 4,030 deaths in 1999, the number of deaths increased to 15,597 in 2009 and 16,651 in 2010.

Patients who are prescribed opioid painkillers to treat chronic or severe pain may be at risk of poisoning or overdose due to the irresponsible way these drugs are sometimes handed out by doctors. The over-prescription of narcotic painkillers such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and methadone can place patients at risk of an overdose and increase the likelihood that they may become addicted to their medications. Hundreds of wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against physicians whose inappropriate prescription of opioid painkillers caused patient deaths.

Although these drugs can play an important role in treating some patients with pain, when they are not properly prescribed by a physician, painkillers can put the health and even the life of a patient at risk. Commonly prescribed opioid painkillers include:

  • Vicodin (sold generically under the name hydrocodone)
  • OxyContin (sold generically as oxycodone)
  • Dilaudid (sold generically under the name Hydromorphone)
  • Methadone
  • Duragesic or fentanyl pain patch (sold generically under the brand names Sandoz, Watson and Mylan)

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If you or a loved one have been the victim of an overdose or other serious complications caused by opioid over-prescription, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the doctor or hospital that was responsible for your injuries.

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by Charles Miller

Charles Miller is a licensed attorney and a partner at Heygood, Orr & Pearson. Charles focuses his practice on areas of complex commercial litigation and personal injury litigation.