PainSAFE, an initiative of the American Pain Foundation, has launched a website to educate patients and practitioners about pain-management therapies and their risks.
In Portland, Ore., at a Bi-Mart Pharmacy that specializes in helping patients with chronic pain, pharmacy staff keeps files on such patients and "watches for all the things that go wrong, such as side effects and errant behavior," said Kathy Hahn, PharmD, owner of the pharmacy and Action Network Leader of the American Pain Foundation. "Some of our staff have become advocates. It's all about increasing access and trying to figure how we can work on the crisis of abusing pain medications," Hahn said.
PainSAFE organizers agree that the pharmacist's role is vital. "Pharmacists play a key role in preventing misuse and overuse of prescriptions. They are the last gate before a patient receives their medication," said Lynn Webster, MD, FACPM, and an advisor to PainSAFE.
Pharmacists can also help patients who switch or combine medications. "Pharmacists need to make sure that patients understand the higher risks of taking 2 together. There could be a substantial reduction in deaths immediately," Webster said.
At the website, simple tips include reminders to lock up pain medications to prevent misuse by the young or the elderly. "We have not been good at putting out the information that pain medications should be locked up," Hahn said.