CVS Pharmacy has now installed time-delay safes in all its locations across Pennsylvania to help prevent robberies of medications, including such opioids as oxycodone and hydrocodone, the company announced Tuesday alongside Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Bright-red signs on the pharmacy counter alert anyone passing by that time-delay pharmacy safes are in use, monitored by 24-hour surveillance, and used with emergency alarm systems. These safes come with a built-in delay in opening the safe that cannot be overridden.

Those units tell potential robbers looking to scoop up as many pills as possible that “it’s not going to be your quick hit,” said Thomas M. Moriarty, CVS Health’s executive vice president and chief external affairs officer.

“We know that as someone walks the streets of Kensington to buy heroin, typically their journey began with a pill that you can get here at CVS legally," Shapiro said. "So we need everybody working together to ensure that those pills don’t get in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. "

Overdoes deaths declined by 18 percent in the state between 2017 and 2018, but 12 people still die every day from a drug overdose, according to Drug Enforcement Administration data previously reported by The Inquirer.

In May, a Philadelphia CVS, on City Avenue near 75th Street in Overbrook Park, lost what could amount to “several thousands of dollars,” when an unidentified man held the pharmacy at gunpoint, demanding oxycodone, Percocet, and fentanyl, police told The Inquirer at the time.

Thomas Moriarty, executive VP and chief external affairs officer for CVS Health, talks during a news conference next to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro at the CVS pharmacy at 19th and Market Streets on Tuesday.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Thomas Moriarty, executive VP and chief external affairs officer for CVS Health, talks during a news conference next to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro at the CVS pharmacy at 19th and Market Streets on Tuesday.

CVS also announced Tuesday a $20,000 grant to Drexel University College of Medicine’s Health Outreach Project. The money will go toward overdose reversal training, naloxone distribution, and other education initiatives, the company said.

All 512 CVS Pharmacy locations in Pennsylvania received the time-delay technology. The safes are locked electronically and require a code to open.. The correct code automatically triggers a delay that varies each time before it can be opened.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (right) shakes hands with Thomas Moriarty, executive VP and chief external affairs officer for CVS Health.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (right) shakes hands with Thomas Moriarty, executive VP and chief external affairs officer for CVS Health.

Time-delay safes were first implemented in 2015 in CVS Pharmacy stores in Indianapolis after the company saw an increase in pharmacy robberies. Within a year of installing the time delays, the company saw a 70 percent decline in those crimes, Moriarty said.

CVS also highlighted other company initiatives aimed at combating the opioid epidemic, including its “Pharmacists Teach” program. CVS pharmacists educate students and parents about prescription drug abuse, curtailing opioid prescriptions covered for more than a week, and using more than 100 safe medication disposals in CVS Pharmacy stores in this state.

Patients can also obtain naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug also known as Narcan, without a prescription in Pennsylvania, 47 other states, and Washington.