WOONSOCKET, R.I., Aug. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- As part of its continuing efforts to combat the national prescription drug abuse epidemic, CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS) is tapping its extensive database to identify and halt inappropriate prescribing of high risk drugs such as opioid painkillers. By evaluating data on prescriptions filled at CVS/pharmacy, CVS Caremark identified providers with extreme patterns of prescribing such high-risk drugs and suspended controlled substance dispensing for those who could not justify their prescribing habits. Details of the unique program were published online first on The New England Journal of Medicine website at nejm.org. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20090226/NE75914LOGO ) "Prescription drug abuse in this country is an epidemic, but it doesn't have to be," said Troyen A. Brennan, MD, MPH, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of CVS Caremark and co-author of the article, "Abusive Prescribing of Controlled Substances – A Pharmacy View." Brennan added, "CVS Caremark, one of the largest providers of prescription drugs, is committed to mitigating prescription drug abuse by advancing legislation, promoting technology and creating safer communities." In a recent new effort, CVS Caremark identified problem prescribers by studying their volume and share of high-risk drugs versus other providers in the same specialty and geographic region, as well as the ages of patients and their payment methods. The program identified 42 outlying prescribers who were then asked to provide additional information about their prescribing habits. Of these, only six identified legitimate reasons for their unusual prescribing practices. As a result of the analysis and outreach, CVS Caremark suspended controlled substance dispensing through the company's CVS/pharmacy locations and the CVS Caremark Mail Service pharmacies for prescriptions written by the other 36 providers. "While this program is not a comprehensive solution to prescription drug abuse, it is an important first step that is in line with the ethical duty pharmacists have to ensure that a prescription for a controlled substance is appropriate," said Mitch Betses, R.Ph., Senior Vice President, Pharmacy Services of CVS/pharmacy and a co-author. "We know there are many ways to fight prescription drug abuse and we are committed to continuing to identify solutions to stop the improper use of controlled substances." The use of controlled substances has increased dramatically, with prescriptions for opioids jumping more than 300 percent between 1999 and 2010. Overdose deaths increased from 4,000 annually to 16,600 during the same period. Such overdoses are now the second leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., and more than 2.4 million people were considered to be opioid abusers in 2010.