Walmart Is About To Make The Opioid Epidemic Worse

Walmart has announced they will only fill 7 days worth of any opioid prescription at a time. They are claiming this will help curb the opioid epidemic facing our country right now. They are lying. This shift will actually make things worse, all in an effort to gain them an extra buck and a little good PR. If they actually had interest in helping curb the deaths and life ravaging results of the prevelance of opioid abuse, they would do something useful like sell Narcan, a life saving drug used in overdose cases, for cheap. Right now it costs over $150, which makes it unaffordable for most.

Please sign my petition to ask Walmart to do something that will actually help: selling Narcan with zero markup in their pharmacies. 

Walmart is pretending that dispensing this class of drug less frequently will curb addiction, selling and abuse. But that's not true because the amount of pills being dispensed will not change - Walmart has no say in that. The amount of pills being prescribed in the first place is something that could be legislated or changed in physician guidelines, but it is not something Walmart can change on their own.

One thing this change will do is make life harder for people who truly need this class of drugs to get it (think about a stage four pancreatic cancer sufferer having to spend that much more time in line at a pharmacy). The second thing this change will do is force people to go to Walmart more often, in which case they are more likely to spend more money there. I suspect the latter is a big motive. This is particularly true because many rural communities where abuse runs rampant rely on Walmart as the closest or only pharmacy. 

But let's talk about how this will effect folks who are abusing narcotics. Perhaps they are addicted themselves, perhaps they are selling their prescription due to poverty and/or addiction. Forcing them to go to Walmart more often won't change any of that. Again, the amount of pills going from the pharmacy to the people will not change at all. Just the frequency with which the pills are dispensed. 

In their press release about this change, Walmart has tried to make the connection between the fill frequency and the deaths and addiction that are ravaging our country right now. There is no connection. If pills are more difficult to get because of this punctuated dispensary method, that will not stop folks from using. Instead, it will make folks more likely to go to the streets for their drugs. 

A lot of the pills being sold on the street are fake pills that are cut with other, more lethal substances. Heroin is cheaper than pills and much harder to know what and how much you're getting, thus making overdose and death more likely. So basically, this change Walmart wants to make could force more users onto the streets where their chances of survival plummet. 

If Walmart actually cared about people and solving this huge problem, they would put time and money into things like legislating prescription patterns, funding rehabilitation services and community outreach, lobbying physicians groups to change prescription habits, legalizing marijuana (or supporting exchange programs) and supporting one of the numerous city and state lawsuits against pharamacuetical companies for their hand in propogating this epidemic.

But that's not what they're doing. So let's be clear, over-prescribing and availability of narcotics in pill form (as opposed to street forms like heroin) may be where the addiction started and it may even kill a person, but just making it harder to manage or cutting it off immediately without any help for battling addiction or alternative solutions for chronic pain will not help. It will only kill more people. 

I believe the simplest thing a retailer like Walmart could do to help curb how many deaths our country sees is to sell Narcan at cost. Please sign on if you think instead of making this stupid change that will benefit their bottom line and screw over addicts, Walmart should sell Narcan at cost and perhaps put some money in the ideas listed above.

*A note on Narcan for those not familiar. Narcan is a life saving drug administered when a person has overdosed on opioids. It can be used by bystanders who aren't medical professionals quite effectively and has been shown to decrease rates of fatal overdoses. It's horrible to experience though as it sends an addict into immediate and severe withdrawal, which a horribly painful experience. However, that person gets to live another day and we as a community get more chances to try and help them with a problem they didn't ask for.
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