Pharmacists often face serious challenges when trying to balance the needs of patients with chronic pain and preventing prescription drug misuse, abuse, and overdose. To demonstrate the essential role pharmacists have as front line providers in the nationwide opioids crisis, the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association (JAPhA) published a special issue titled “Opioids, Naloxone, and Beyond: The Intersection of Medication Safety, Public Health, and Pharmacy.”
The 30 peer-reviewed articles in this special issue, guest edited by Jeffrey Bratberg, PharmD, BCPS, of the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy, provide evidence-based stories and results from pharmacists initiating and sustaining effective patient, public health, and system-level interventions to reduce opioid-related morbidity and mortality.
Bratberg, who has participated in a number of events to discuss opioid problems and treatment options, actively encourages pharmacists and other health professionals to advocate for more supervised safe consumption sites, educate patients on safe use of opioids and overdose awareness, provide nonprescription syringes, and dispense naloxone.
Last month, at the Pain Institute during the APhA Annual Meeting and Exposition, Bratberg hosted education sessions and put the opioid crisis into perspective for attendees. “There are millions of people at risk and thousands of people dying,” Bratberg said. “They’re dying everywhere, and anyone who’s concerned about the safety of opioids should consider naloxone as the effective antidote to protect the patient.”
Pharmacy-based naloxone access programs are spreading throughout the country as a way to treat opioid overdose. Naloxone is often administered as a nasal spray but can also be injected via a syringe or an auto-injector. “It has no potential for abuse, and does not work on other drugs,” Bratberg noted.
In addition, law enforcement officials and other first responders are attending trainings around the country to learn how to identify an overdose, how to get naloxone, and the four ways to administer the drug, which can reverse the effect of an overdose and save a life.
“Pharmacists have to take the lead in educating the public about naloxone as a lifesaving drug,” Bratberg said. “Starting the conversation and perfecting the naloxone offer is critical to expanding access for patients and reversing overdoses on the spot.”
For more information about naloxone and pharmacists’ involvement in the opioid epidemic, view the special supplement to the March/April 2017 issue of JAPhA here.