The letter outlined 7 steps that the Biden administration can take without the need for additional legislation.
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) CEO Paul W. Abramowitz, PharmD, has sent a letter on behalf of ASHP members to President Joe Biden, imploring the Biden administration to “take immediate action to utilize pharmacists as clinical care providers in our nation’s struggle against opioid use disorder (OUD).”1
In the letter, Abramowitz also thanked the president for using his recent State of the Union address to highlight the urgency of the opioid epidemic, as well as to outline 6 steps the administration can take—crucially, “without the need for additional legislation”1—to leverage pharmacists more effectively.
The steps outlined in the letter included suggestions that the president: Use his authority under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act to authorize pharmacists to initiate OUD medications, as well as taper and discontinue opioid use; issue a PREP Act declaration authorizing pharmacists to co-prescribe naloxone when dispensing opioids to at-risk individuals; allow physicians to supervise pharmacists virtually; and allow patients to fill methadone prescriptions at their pharmacy, among others.
The opioid epidemic continues to be a significant public health problem in the United States. Drug overdose deaths increased nearly 30% from 2019 to 2020, and nearly 75% of overdose deaths in 2020 involved an opioid, according to the CDC.2 Since 1999, more than 564,000 Americans died from an overdose “involving any opioid,” including prescription and illicit opioids.2 And in 2021, more than 106,000 Americans died due to a drug related overdose.3
“ASHP stands ready to support the government’s efforts to reach American communities with educational campaigns related to naloxone, [medications for OUDs], and other efforts aimed at mitigating the opioid epidemic,” Abramowitz wrote.1 “We urge you to fully utilize pharmacists, the medication use experts, to expand access to needed treatments for OUD.”