Pharmacists Should Take a Proactive Approach When Addressing Controlled Substance Concerns

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At this year’s American Pharmacists Association Annual Meeting & Exposition, Mark Garofoli urged pharmacists to develop strong documentation practices and go beyond baseline federal regulations to care for patients with red flags.

The lawful and ethical dispensation of controlled substances rests on the shoulders of both the prescribing practitioner and the dispensing pharmacist.

And when it comes to meeting these lawful and ethical standards, documentation is key. The practice helps improve quality of care, ensure smooth communication between health care providers, and maintain continuity of care.

“We really need to work on our documentation,” said Mark Garofoli, PharmD, MBA, BCGP, CPE, CTTS, director of experiential learning, clinical assistant professor, and clinical pain management pharmacist at West Virginia University School of Pharmacy and West Virginia University Medicine in a conversation with Drug Topics at this year’s American Pharmacists Association Annual Meeting & Exposition. “It’s easy to say that when you’re at a conference and you’re not in the heat of the moment where you only have a concerted amount of time and effort to put in [to the process], but it has to be one of those things that is automatically within it.”

Pharmacists are limited in their documentation abilities, Garofoli admits, but recent “opportunities and requirements based on settlements across the country” are forecasted to expand the bandwidth that pharmacists have when it comes to the essential process.

“We have relatively limited documentation means these days, and that needs to—and will—expand…so we can actually document what happened in a very succinct manner,” said Garofoli.

While federal regulations set a baseline for responsible prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances, Garofoli believes pharmacists should go beyond these minimum requirements when addressing patients with red flags.

“Practicing at the top of our license goes much farther beyond [federal regulations],” said Garofoli. “The standard course of action for any given patient scenario is not just the corresponding legal responsibilities and the federal regulations, but it’s also what would be expected of a professional in the same situation. Reviewing things like prescription monitoring programs, drug interactions, early refills…it’s really crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.”

Read more of our coverage from the 2024 APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition here.

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