A win-win for pharmacy: The rewards of community involvement

September 10, 2015

Pharmacists who participate in community organizations find many benefits - and they give as good as they get.

Bryant SchobertDrug abuse is a growing problem in America. Prescription drug abuse is increasing, with nearly 15,000 people dying each year from prescription drug overdoses1. It isn’t just illegal drug abuse that is increasing. The use of e-cigarettes by high school students has tripled in the last year alone,2 and the legalization of marijuana has introduced a number of problems America hasn’t faced before.

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Substance abuse committee

My interest in these issues led me to the Manitowoc County Substance Abuse Prevention Committee. This committee examines drug-related problems and develops strategies to deter abuse. It organizes events to educate the public, gives presentations in schools, and promotes events such as drug take-back days. Members of the committee represent different community groups; they include law-enforcement personnel, county health nurses, emergency department directors, pain-management doctors, substance-abuse counselors, and interested citizens.

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Many opportunities exist for pharmacists to offer their knowledge and experience to similar undertakings. Not all healthcare providers may have the drug knowledge that pharmacists possess, especially in connection with the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic aspects of medications. For example, one project I was involved with examined the differences between injectable and intranasal naloxone and identified the advantages and disadvantages of each formulation.

PDMPs

Pharmacists are also on the front lines of opioid and prescription drug abuse problems. We often identify potential abusers using prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). This year, I made a short presentation on the accomplishments of Wisconsin’s PDMP, and specifically cited the usage statistics of Manitowoc County, where, by comparison, our query rates have been lower per capita than those of other counties. Now our committee is working to help doctors take advantage of the PDMP by providing access to other members of their teams (such as nurses).

Laws and regulations

My knowledge of the laws and regulations governing pharmaceuticals is very helpful to the committee. Last year, when regulatory changes made previous processes for prescription drug disposal unacceptable, I participated in finding accessible avenues for disposal of controlled substances in hospice and long-term-care settings for Manitowoc County, and we came up with new ideas to ensure that these items are disposed of properly.

Information resources

Pharmacists have many resources to keep them up to date on new guidelines, recommendations, and therapies. Recently, I received some articles that facilitated discussions with the tobacco subcommittee about e-cigarette regulation and identification of e-cig ingredients. The committee then updated its presentations to ensure that it provides the community with the latest and most accurate information.

 

Individual benefit

For pharmacists, involvement in community organizations offers many benefits. It’s a great way to share valuable pharmacy experiences and give back to the community. It can help pharmacists develop relationships with members of the community and, if they are newcomers to the area, enable them to feel more involved and welcome.

An additional benefit of committee participation for me was the development of a relationship with a physician. We discussed the barriers each of us faces in prescribing and dispensing these prescriptions, as well as ways to overcome some of these barriers outside our committee involvement.

Community benefit

The committee welcomed the pharmacy knowledge, expertise, and communication skills that I had to offer. I would recommend this type of committee activity to any pharmacist. The experiences I’ve had during my brief time on the committee have helped me to understand the problems of the community and enabled me to become involved in their solutions.

References

1. Beletsky L, Rich JD, Walley AY. Prevention of fatal opioid overdose. JAMA. 2012;308(18):1863–1864.

2. Arrazola RA, Singh T, Corey CG, et al. Tobbaco use among middle and high school students - United States, 2011-2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015;64(14):381–385.

Bryant Schobertis a PGY1 community pharmacy resident at The Medicine Shoppe in Two Rivers, Wis.Matthew Michael Ansayis a 2015 PharmD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy.