Pharmacists fight against the opioid epidemic
Over the past decade the opioid epidemic evolved rapidly.
Opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, with the rising number of opioid-related overdoses and deaths alarming drug manufacturers, health care providers, lawmakers and patients alike.
What is an opioid?
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.
As a nation, we are tuned in to the national crisis of prescription drug abuse and dependency.
As medication experts, pharmacists are concerned about addressing substance use disorders while also helping patients who have legitimate pain needs control their pain.
Because of their accessibility and expertise, pharmacists are in many ways on the front lines of the opioid abuse epidemic and play an essential role in communicating concerns and sharing knowledge with other members of the health care team. Indeed, study results concluded that patients with chronic pain achieved a reduction in opioid use when treated by an integrated team that included a pharmacist.
Pharmacists can also provide naloxone, the lifesaving opioid overdose reversal medication reportedly used to save pop singer Demi Lovato’s life (July 2018). The drug is available without a prescription in the majority of states.
One of the biggest challenges for pharmacists is helping patients and clinicians determine if or how long to continue safe use of opioids. Pharmacists will need to collaborate with regulators, other health professionals, patients, families, caregivers, and industry leaders to deal with these complex problems.
This complicated, multi-faceted public health crisis must be addressed through a comprehensive and collaborative approach.
Each participant in the pharmaceutical supply chain can play an important role, including:
- Drug manufacturers that design, develop and promote the medication
- Doctors who prescribe the medication
- The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which has regulatory oversight for all DEA-registrants (doctors, distributors, pharmacists) and sets yearly quotas for the volume of opioids that can be manufactured.
- Pharmacists who dispense the medication
- State medical and pharmacy boards that oversee the doctors and pharmacies in their jurisdiction
- Private and public health insurance groups that determine what they will pay for
- Distributors that deliver medications ordered by pharmacists to fill prescriptions written by doctors
We are committed to engaging with all who share our dedication to acting with urgency to address this epidemic and working together to end this national crisis.