MASON CITY, Iowa - Opioid abuse has become a serious concern across the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids killed more than 47,000 people in 2017, with nearly half of those deaths involving a prescription opioid.
Now, Hy-Vee has a plan to fight back through a new company-wide controlled substance prescription policy.
Beginning this month, Hy-Vee pharmacies will no longer allow a "subsequent fill of a Schedule II...or a refill of a Schedule III or IV controlled substance more than 72 hours early" of the refill date without authorization from the prescriber. In addition, pharamacies will no longer accept GoodRx coupons for controlled substance prescriptions.
Hy-Vee West Pharmacy manager Tim Becker hasn't seen a large problem with abuse at his location, thanks to what staffers see when customers come to the counter.
"We monitor the prescribers, and know most of them here in town. And there are signs that if someone is coming in from out of the area, doesn't want to use insurance, those are red flags that we've been watching."
He views the changes as a step in the right direction.
"This is a work in progress to try and deal with the crisis, so there may be future things. But right now, this is where we are."
According to the Mason City Fire Department, 38 calls to administer Narcan, which can help reverse the effects of an overdose, were made within the last 12 months. Hy-Vee offers the drug, also known by the generic name naloxone, without a prescription in all eight states where it operates pharmacies, including both Iowa and Minnesota.
If you think someone may be overdosing, Becker says to look for signs like shallow breathing, drowsiness and slurred speech, as well as blue nails or lips.
Also, if you know someone who has an opioid addiction, call 1-855-581-8111, or 1-800-622-HELP (4357).