The evidence is overwhelming that for far too long, the various components of the pharmaceutical industry, intentionally or not, have helped fuel the prescription drug abuse epidemic that is now cited in seven deaths every day in Florida. Which is why the unilateral decision by CVS Pharmacy Inc. to stop filling prescriptions from doctors it apparently suspects may be aiding the illegal supply of painkillers and other drugs is a sign of progress. It appears the corporate office has embraced the long-standing professional obligation of pharmacists to not fill prescriptions they consider questionable.
The CVS decision, announced quietly in individual letters to a "small" number of doctors whose narcotic prescriptions it will no longer fill, immediately drew rebukes from some in the medical field, understandably. Little is known about how CVS identified the doctors or how many there were. Nor is it clear whether the company will entertain appeals from any affected doctors who think they have been wrongly identified. The company most definitely should.
With drugstore chains now dominating the prescription drug market, any mistake that stigmatizes legitimate doctors' prescriptions has the ability to greatly hinder their patients' ability to obtain the drugs they medically require.
But what CVS has done, it appears, is show some responsibility to its community by doing its part to stem the illegal supply of oxycodone, Xanax and other drugs. Florida ranks first in the nation in per capita sales of prescription painkillers. And deaths from pharmaceuticals eclipse those from heroin and cocaine overdoses combined. Law enforcement and social workers blame the epidemic for playing a growing role in crime, poverty and child neglect.
The proactive CVS effort complements Florida's long-delayed implementation of a drug database aimed at preventing addicts or dealers from shopping different pharmacies to load up on medications. Reining in Florida's sad reputation for prescription drug abuse won't happen overnight. But CVS has shown another tool for attacking it — one prescription at a time.