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CVS: Few Banned Prescribers Sought Reinstatement

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Months after CVS/pharmacy stopped filling prescriptions for highly addictive painkillers from three-dozen physicians who were inappropriately prescribing them, just three have requested reinstatement.

"Suprisingly, now 9 months after we stopped filling controlled-substance prescriptions from these clinicians' patients, we've had contact from only three of them," according to an article in The New England Journal of Medicine, co-authored by Mitch Betses, senior vice president of Pharmacy Services for CVS Caremark, and Troyen Brennan, executive vice president and chief medical officer for CVS Caremark, which has denied their requests.


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In an effort to curb drug abuse, the chain revoked dispensing privileges after analyzing its database of nearly 1 million prescribers. Data related to prescriptions for highly addictive narcotics containing opiates, including hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), alprazolam (Xanax), methadone, and carisoprodol (a muscle relaxant), submitted from March 2010 to January 2012, were analyzed with close attention paid to the volume and share of high-risk drugs prescribed vs. other prescribers; the age of patients (18 to 35 years is the majority age group abusing prescription drugs) and whether they paid in cash.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, pharmacists are required to evaluate patients to ensure that the controlled substance for which they have a prescription has been appropriately prescribed.

Read more: Protecting the Pharmacy Against Robberies

“Everyone has always thought the definition of a legitimate prescription is one that came from a bonafide physician who wrote the prescription, but I don’t think the DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency] looks at it that way any longer,” said Mike James, vice president and director of government affairs for the Association of Community Pharmacists Congressional Network, and owner of the Person Street Pharmacy in Raleigh, N.C.

CVS/pharmacy is willing to share the names of unscrupulous prescribers with government officials, but would have to consider any requests from competing chains on a case-by-case basis, spokesman Michael DeAngelis told SN.

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