National pharmacy chain CVS Health has installed time-delay safes at all 512 of its Pennsylvania retail pharmacies as an attempt to deter robberies, a problem the company describes as a “side effect” of the nation’s opioid addiction crisis.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro attended the announcement, held at the CVS at 20th and Market streets. Shapiro said he believes the preventive measure will help prevent prescription drug misuse and reduce opioid addiction rates
“If we can begin to keep these pills out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them — pills where, you know, four out of every five heroin users begin their cycle of addiction with one of these pills — if we can do that then we can make a difference in this crisis,” he said. “We can save lives.”
At participating CVS stores, opioids will be stored in safes operating on a time-delay, which means that a pharmacist must wait several minutes between unlocking a safe and opening it. CVS staff cannot override the delay.
“We can dramatically reduce the theft out of pharmacies like this across Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said.
The Philadelphia Mayor’s office said the opioid epidemic has been the city’s greatest public health crisis in a century.
“Every neighborhood in the city is being hit hard by an epidemic of opioid use and overdose,” said Kelly Cofrancisco, deputy communications director for the Mayor’s Office. “The City is working to save lives, improve access to help, and reverse the negative effects opioids have had on our communities.”
Company officials said the delay will deter thieves who can no longer get the pills quickly and escape.
“Pharmacy robberies are a challenging issue for every pharmacy and we are committed to doing all we can to reduce the number of incidents in our Pennsylvania stores,” said Thomas M. Moriarty, an executive vice president at CVS Health.
When CVS installed the company’s first time-delay safes at its Indianapolis stores in 2015, the company saw a 70% decline in robberies at those stores, Moriarty said.
The retail pharmacy chain’s adoption of time-delay safes is just one initiative among many focused on addressing opioid addiction in and around Philadelphia.
“The move by CVS can help prevent medications from ending up in the hands of someone who might abuse them,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro said that 12 Pennsylvanians, on average, die from opioid drug overdoses each day. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health determined 1,116 people died of accidental overdoses in the city last year.
“We appreciate CVS’ efforts in this fight as it will take a broad coalition of public and private partners coming together to fight the opioid epidemic,” Cofrancisco said.
Shapiro said the opioid addiction epidemic is a problem that requires an “all hands on deck, multidisciplinary approach.” He said every day, five dealers are arrested, on average, statewide. However, he continued, “We are keenly aware we can’t arrest our way out of this crisis.”
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