CVS Cuts Off 36 Prescription-Happy Doctors

CVS (NYSE:CVS) execs have either been watching a lot of Breaking Bad or they're taking their run-in with the U.S. government's prescription painkiller crackdown very seriously. The drugstore chain announced on Wednesday (Aug. 21) that it had stopped providing high-powered painkillers to 36 doctors who prescribed the drugs at particularly high rates.

The retailer also began clamping down earlier this month on products like nail polish remover that can be used to make methamphetamine.

"This isn't a definitive solution to the problem," CVS chief medical officer Troyen Brenna told Reuters. "We wanted to share what we did and have other people in healthcare, including other pharmacies, look at what we did and discuss what some more comprehensive solutions might be."

CVS began cutting off certain providers late last year. The chain said the suspensions are based on analysis that started in March 2010 and ended in January 2012, which tracked prescriptions for hydrocodone, oxycodone, alprazolam, methadone and carisoprodol.

From a database of almost 1 million doctors, CVS identified dozens who were prescribing the drugs at a much higher rate than similar providers. One "outlier" prescribed, on average, 44,000 doses of one high-risk drug in the same period that a similar doctor prescribed 662. The company followed up with 42 prescribers, six of whom gave what CVS considered to be legitimate reasons for the high volume.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has been going after big pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens (NYSE:WAG) in an attempt to cut drug abuse out at the source. Overuse of prescription painkillers is the second leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., and it accounted for more than 15,500 deaths in 2009, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more:

- See this Huffington Post story

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