A record 2,500 faculty and students invaded Nashville for the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Annual Meeting.
At the opening general session, Kevin Lofton, CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives, said that the health-care industry is working to break down silos that have served as barriers to a truly team-based approach to care and pharmacists are an integral part of the continuum. New schools, are producing the pharmacists that are needed to partner with other care-team members, he said. “The role of pharmacists has grown more important than ever before as we struggle with the drug costs and shift to population health.”
He noted that for pharmacists, curricula, educational requirements and accreditation processes have changed dramatically. “Pharmacy students are exposed to interprofessional learning, working in teams with other clinicians to ensure the best outcomes for patients and students are now being taught key assessment skills; physicians look to pharmacists to help make important care decisions.”
Lucinda Maine, PhD, Executive Vice President and CEO of AACP, told Drug Topics that among the questions that AACP is asking are: “How are we advancing our interprofessional team-based learning? And how are we assessing our students, are programs, and our curriculum.”
“Our attendees are voracious consumers of what people come here to share,” said Maine.
Maine noted that there are between 150 and 200 students in attendance at this year’s meeting. “The message we want our student attendees to walk away is that academia is a rich, exciting, and rewarding opportunity for them to use their education.”
The Opioid Crisis
In a seminar entitled: “The Opioid Crisis in the USA,” Wilson Compton, MD, Deputy Director for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told a packed conference hall that the number of opioid-related deaths continues to rise. He said that there were 50,000 opioid overdose fatalities in 2015, with that number expected to increase to 60,000 when the 2016 data is released.
Compton said that in addition to legal prescription overdoses, the misuse of street drugs— primarily heroin and fentanyl—is also on the rise. “These are not coming from patches or the medical field, they are coming from illicit sources. The potency and number of deaths is astounding,” Compton said. He added that synthetic opioid deaths closely linked to the illicit fentanyl supply is also growing and that synthetic opioids including carfentanil are fast emerging.
He noted that admissions to hospitals of newborns with opioid withdrawal syndromes has also been on the rise especially in West Virginia and New Hampshire, and that there has been a spike in HIV and hepatitis C outbreaks linked to oxymorphone injections.
Compton said that it is unacceptable that more than 200 million opioid prescriptions are filled each year, and that the nation needs new approaches in for the treatment of pain. Researchers, he noted, are looking at new biomarkers and new targets for pain control.
Compton added that recent the data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) suggest that the following priority areas need to be addressed:
- Advancing the practice of pain management
- Expanded availability and distribution of treatments for opioid over doses [naloxone]
- Expanded access to treatment and recovery services
- Strengthening public health surveillance
- Supporting cutting edge research
Compton said that among the specific roles for pharmacists in combating the opioid epidemic include expanded roles for pharmacists in protecting the community from drug diversion and integration with Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) data systems.
But he asked how can these steps be integrated into usual business practices? How does society balance the needs of pain patients with minimizing opioid overexposure? He noted that partial prescriptions are now allowed. Can they play a useful role?
Current pilot research on pharmacy as a site for methadone dispensing is being conducted, he added.
Other dominate themes at the AACP meeting included:
- Integration of Pharmacy in Population Health initiatives
- Pharmacy efforts in diversity and inclusive excellence
- The future of academic clinical pharmacies [specialty pharmacies/340B programs]
- The application of emerging technologies in pharmacy education
- How to incorporate pediatric and geriatric topics into pharmacy curricula
- Improving curricular and co-curricular student-involved immunization outreach
- Mastering the fundamentals of infectious diseases by helping students memorize large volumes of material about pathogens, antibiotics patients, and the interactions between the three
- The development of pharmacy-based disease management programs utilizing point-of-care tests