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McKesson takes steps to fight opioid epidemic

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Company commits $100 million to new foundation

SAN FRANCISCO — As the severity of the American opioid epidemic continues to deepen, government agencies — along with the White House — and private sector companies are joining the fight to stop it. On Thursday, McKesson Corp. announced a series of company initiatives aimed at combatting the crisis. The measures include the formation of a foundation dedicated to ending opioid abuse, to which McKesson is committing $100 million. The company said the new foundation is part of its mission of delivering better care for patients.

“At McKesson, we are deeply concerned by the impact the opioid epidemic is having on families and communities across our nation. That’s why we are taking new steps to help combat the epidemic,” said chairman and chief executive officer John Hammergren. “These new initiatives will provide additional tools to fight abuse, combat overprescribing, and increase doctor and patient education. We believe our investment and continued actions can have a positive impact, particularly when done in partnership with others in the health care industry, as well as with government policy makers, administrators and regulators.”

Mckesson’s new nonprofit organization is expected to focus on education for patients, caregivers and providers, addressing key policy issues and increasing access to life-saving treatments, such as opioid overdose reversal medications. The foundation’s work, according to McKesson, will be overseen by a board comprised of a majority of outside directors including health care and subject matter experts.

McKesson says it will provide further details on the foundation’s leadership, strategic priorities, and criteria for giving in the coming months. McKesson points out that this new foundation focused on opioid abuse is distinct from McKesson’s existing nonprofit foundation whose key focus is on supporting better care for cancer patients.

McKesson also emphasizes its commitment to using its industry know-how to help address the complexities and multitude of issues contributing to the rise of the opioid crisis. McKesson’s deep expertise in pharmaceutical distribution, analytics and information technology will be essential in this effort, the company says. McKesson says it is also dedicated to working with pharmacies, policy makers, prescribers, manufacturers and others to expedite development of a national prescription safety alert system. And to identify patients who are at risk for opioid overuse, abuse, addiction, or misuse, McKesson plans to invest in the development of a national system that uses prescription information to provide real-time alerts to pharmacists and, ultimately, prescribers, indicating when additional patient information may be needed before dispensing opioids.

Additionally, the system design will address shortcomings of existing state and federal clinical decision support systems and save time for pharmacists and prescribers. Implementation of the system, according to McKesson, is contingent on the Food and Drug Administration’s exercise of its Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies or other authorities. Nevertheless, McKesson says it will move forward with development of the system.

McKesson will also facilitate e-prescribing. To reduce fraudulent or counterfeit prescriptions during 2019, McKesson says it will stop selling opioids to customers who cannot accept e-prescribing of controlled substances and will engage with those customers who may need to make this transition. McKesson continues to push Congress in requiring mandatory e-prescribing of opioids.

McKesson will support limited-dose packaging as well. To make it easier for doctors to prescribe and pharmacists to dispense in smaller doses, and to reduce potential for unused product, the company will proactively engage with all opioid manufacturing partners this calendar year to develop plans for limited-dose packaging.

Fast-track distribution of new, non-opioid pain medications is another prong in McKesson’s plan to attack opioids. To improve access to medicines, McKesson will work with manufacturing partners to facilitate immediate availability on a national basis of non-opioid pain medication once approved by the FDA.

Providing complimentary pharmacist training on opioid overdose reversal medications is another essential part of the McKesson blueprint. The company will offer pharmacists complimentary training by independent medical experts on how to administer medications such as naloxone — a potentially life-saving drug used to reverse opioid overdose.

Additionally, McKesson will develop and make available an annual report that examines the progress of these company initiatives with the purpose of sharing learnings and insights with the public.

These newly announced efforts complement McKesson’s ongoing work and initiatives to help protect the security of the nation’s pharmaceutical supply chain, advance smart policies, and support opioid addiction prevention and treatment-focused organizations.

McKesson is already engaged in enhancing its diversion prevention program — officially known as the Controlled Substance Monitoring Program (CSMP) — which is run by a team of highly experienced experts. CSMP monitors customer orders, blocks shipments when necessary, and reports suspicious orders to the Drug Enforcement Administration. All controlled substances are locked, monitored, and stored in DEA-approved spaces, accessible only by specially designated employees.

McKesson has also been at work promoting a secure supply chain by increasing efforts to help collect unused medicines from customers and distribution centers so they can be safely processed out of the supply chain. Over the last three years, McKesson says it has worked with reverse distributors to safely remove an average of 7.2 million products a year.

Being actively engaged in public policy, both on the national and state levels, is integral to McKesson’s strategy for addressing the opioid problem. For example, the company advocated for the 2015 passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which contained provisions for preventing and treating addiction.

McKesson says it supports more robust funding of such policy proposals.

 


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