Fighting Opioid Abuse


How pharmacists can help fight the battle.

“Pharmacy has a 100% commitment to patient care, and a zero tolerance for abuse and diversion,” said Chris Krese, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Communications and Media Relations for the National Association of Chain Pharmacists (NACDS).

“We see the pendulum swing on this issue in terms of how it is discussed in the public domain. Sometimes there is more of a focus on the need to help patients gain access to needed pain medications. Sometimes there is more of a focus on the need to help reduce addiction, abuse, and diversion of pain medications,” Krese added.

Krese noted that pharmacists are on the front lines each day and must make difficult determinations in a professional manner to simultaneously address the many complex aspects of this issue.

John Norton, Director, Public Relations, for the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), said that as the most accessible health-care professional, pharmacists are key players in fighting opioid abuse and addiction.

“In particular, independent community pharmacists, because of the special relationship they enjoy with their patients, are in a unique position to make a difference,” said Norton.

The CDC has released a brochure for pharmacists: Pharmacists: On the Front Lines – Addressing Prescription Opioid Abuse and Overuse.

Its call for pharmacists to be more involved comes as municipalities and counties in the areas most hard-hit by opioids are fighting back with lawsuits against pharmacy chains and drug distributors. Within a two-year period, the town of Kermit, WV, population 400, received 9,000,000 doses of opioid drugs. The town is fighting back with a lawsuit against five wholesalers and a pharmacy owner. In March, Cabell County, WV, filed a lawsuit against drug wholesalers and several chain pharmacies. The lawsuit claims these companies disregarded an opioid epidemic and shipped large amounts of opioids to drug stores throughout the county. More than 40,000,000 doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone were sent to Cabell County pharmacies between 2007 and 2012, according to news reports.

Related article: An Opioid Story Earns a Pulitzer

“This is all part of the pharmacists embracing their increasing role in public health,” Norton said.

How Pharmacists Can Help Fight the Battle

  • Counsel patients on medications to avoid while taking opioids, such as benzodiazepines.

  • Advise patients about pain control and potential side effects.

  • Identify patients at risk of overdose and dispense naloxone per state laws and regulations.

  • Access state prescription monitoring programs to identify drug abusers who are doctor and pharmacy shopping.

  • Assure compliance with new regulations on opioid prescribing by contacting the prescriber if a patient has questions or concerns.

  • Participate in state sponsored addiction recovery and treatment services; and help with disposal of excess or expired prescriptions.
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