Chris Carr Attorney General Georgia Chris Carr, Georgia attorney general
Photo: John Disney/ALM

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr joined with a bipartisan group of attorneys general from across the country Friday in another effort to fight the national epidemic of opioid addiction. Carr signed letters to 15 health care companies that provide pharmacy benefit management (PBM) services, encouraging programs to mitigate prescription opioid abuse.

The attorneys general sent a separate letter to the CEO of CVS Health Corp. applauding that company’s new program automatically enrolling all commercial, health plan, employer and Medicaid clients in an opioid abuse mitigation program.

“The opioid epidemic is one of the greatest public health threats facing our country, one that took the lives of 982 Georgians just last year,” Carr said in a news release Friday. “It affects every state and has a devastating impact on our communities—tearing apart families and stretching the budgets of local law enforcement and first responders as they do the difficult work on the front lines. As part of our efforts, attorneys general are pooling resources and coordinating across party lines to address the crisis. We appreciate when groups, like CVS Health, continue to find innovative ways to help in this fight, and we are looking forward to learning more about what others are doing.”

The attorneys general asked that the companies adopt similar measures as CVS Health. Those measures include: limiting to seven days the supply of opioids dispensed for certain acute prescriptions for patients who are new to the therapy, limiting the daily dosage of opioids dispensed based on strength and requiring the use of immediate-release formulations of opioids before extended-release opioids are dispensed. The CVS Health program’s requirements are similar to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opioid-prescribing guidelines.

In addition to Georgia, those joining today’s letters include attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Also Friday, Carr announced plans to participate in National Drug Take Back Day on Oct. 28.

“Unfortunately, our very own medicine cabinets can be a hotbed for the opioid epidemic,” Carr said. “As we continue to strengthen our state’s response and cut down on the illicit use of prescription drugs, I want to stress the importance of safely disposing of any unused, expired prescription drugs.”

Drug takeback boxes are located all over the state and available year-round. Carr plans to participate in events around the state in the next week to highlight the need to use those boxes at pharmacies and sheriffs’ offices.

“I’m urging Georgians to help us make this the most successful Drug Take Back Day we’ve ever had,” Carr said. “Let’s join together and empty our medicine cabinets, so that together, we can ensure there are no more tears, no more deaths and no more heartache as a result of the opioid epidemic.”