CVS announced Thursday new restrictions to curb the spiraling U.S. opioid epidemic, which was labeled as a national emergency by President Donald Trump’s administration this summer.

The company’s steps, which include limitations, funding and educational resources to “face this crisis head on,” comes as multiple states and cities sue pharmaceutical companies over the opioid epidemic.

CVS Caremark, which manages patients’ prescription coverage and benefits, will boost its utilization management program to make sure opioids are prescribed and used appropriately. The program, which follows guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will limit the supply of opioids dispensed for certain acute prescriptions to seven days.

CVS Caremark, which has 90 million plan members, will also limit the daily dosage of opioids based on the strength of the drug. The program will require the use of immediate-release formulations of opioids before extended-release versions are dispensed, the company said.

More Disposal Options

CVS also announced it will install 1,550 in-store disposal units in 750 pharmacies where consumers can drops off unwanted and used medication. The proper disposal of opioids can prevent the drug from falling into the wrong hands.

Education On Opioids

The company reminded customers pharmacists are available for private consultations, and now it’s stepping it up by “strengthening” counseling for those on opioid prescriptions under a “robust safe opioid use education program.” Through counseling, pharmacists will talk to customers about the risks of opioid dependence and addiction, as well as answering questions patients might have.

"Without a doubt, addressing our nation's opioid crisis calls for a multipronged effort involving many health care stakeholders, from doctors, dentists and pharmaceutical companies to pharmacies and government officials," CVS CEO Larry Merlo said in a statement. "With this expansion of our industry-leading initiatives, we are further strengthening our commitment to help providers and patients balance the need for these powerful medications with the risk of abuse and misuse."

The company said its Pharmacists Teach program, in which pharmacists talk about opioid addiction with approximately 30,000 students, will now expand their education by adding an opioid abuse prevention option for parents.  

Robert Merrill, co-founder One Source Regulatory, a regulatory and compliance consultancy that advises pharmaceutical companies, said “CVS’s decision to provide better patient education is an important step in the right direction towards curbing the opioid epidemic.”

“This information empowers patients to take personal responsibility over what is going into their bodies, to recognize the potential signs of dependence, and to make informed decisions about if and how to take an opioid,” Merrill told International Business Times. “We all need to be more informed and involved in our health care decisions, including the drugs we are prescribed.”

A recent report from the CDC said 11.8 million people in the U.S. misused opioids last year, with 11.5 million misusing prescribed opioids, including Hydrocodone, Fentanyl, Oxycodone.

Approximately 90 people nationwide die from an opioid-related overdose every day. The number of heroin opioid-related overdose deaths, which includes prescription opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone, has quadrupled since 1999. At the same time, the rate of prescription opioids sold in the country has nearly quadrupled since that year.