McKesson’s Opioid Task Force & Policy Recommendations

In 2015, CEO John Hammergren asked for the creation of a task force of McKesson experts, including clinicians, to study the opioid issue and its challenges. He believed our company should explore a variety of creative options, outside the confines of our role as a pharmaceutical distributor, to help identify solutions to the public health crisis.

The opioid task force proactively developed an opioid abuse policy paper, “Combating the Opioid Abuse Epidemic: A Shared Responsibility that Requires Innovative Solutions (PDF, 354 KB),” which includes policy recommendations to improve prescribing and dispensing practices to help curb the opioid epidemic and also highlights our efforts to promote a secure supply chain and educate and equip customers, physicians and pharmacists.McKesson Opioid Recommendations

Our recommendations include the following:

  • Require e-prescribing for all controlled substances
  • Require all payers and providers to use opioid management programs
  • Harness the Food and Drug Administration's Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies Program
  • Improve information sharing among Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP)
  • Permit partial refills to reduce risks associated with an excess of unused pills
  • Implement a prescription safety-alert system into the pharmacy medication dispensing process
    • A prescription safety-alert system could identify patients whose prescription history indicates they may be at higher risk for opioid abuse or misuse, and offer real-time flags that appear directly in the pharmacists’ workflow. When pharmacists receive a ‘red flag,’ they could take action by voluntarily consulting their state PDMP and/or calling the prescribing doctor to confirm that the prescription is legitimate. If legitimate, the two clinicians could share information about the patient’s recent opioid activity and collaboratively determine the best course of action.

In addition, we have also advocated for the following:

  • Resetting the DEA’s annual opioid quotas (PDF, 34 KB)
    • The DEA should work closely with the healthcare industry and the pain community to re-evaluate their annual quotas on the production of opioids.
  • Establishing nationwide pill limits
    • A national policy should be enacted to limit the supply of opioids prescribed, such as PhRMA’s recent proposal to limit pills to a seven-day supply for acute pain treatment.
  • Enacting policies that allow pharmacists to provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
    • New policies should be enacted that make it easier for pharmacists to provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other clinical services to individuals suffering from opioid addiction. Pharmacists are highly skilled, medically-trained professionals who are qualified to provide MAT, which combines the use of medication with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders.

We are actively working with federal agencies, state legislators, and local community groups to advance the above proposals. We strongly supported President Trump declaring the opioid crisis a ‘national emergency’ and provided the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis with a set of recommendations to consider for its final report. The company will continue to advocate for the policy ideas and solutions detailed above with federal, state and local legislators and regulators as part of the company’s efforts to help stem the opioid epidemic.