Opioid summit brings together stakeholders, offers takeaway points

While the annual conference focuses on opioid abuse, more programming on appropriate pain management was included this year

The opioid epidemic continues to affect families, communities, and the nation, and should remain a priority. That’s the main message from this year’s National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit on April 2–5, held annually in Atlanta for all stakeholders.

“Seeing and hearing from the variety of individuals directly impacted by the opioid epidemic highlighted the vastness of the crisis,” said attendee Jenna Ventresca, JD, APhA director of health policy. “It was also motivating to hear from those who are identifying solutions and putting them into action to help their patients and communities.”

Anne Burns, RPh, APhA vice president of professional affairs, served on the summit’s 2018 Advisory Board. “Despite a decrease in the supply of prescribed opioids, the significant increase in the use of heroin, fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids is having a dramatic impact on communities,” Burns said.

While the summit’s focus is on opioid abuse, this year, more programming on appropriate pain management was included. APhA is working to address both, said Burns. “We, as pharmacists, are also focused on helping patients who have chronic pain—some of whom can stray into opioid use disorder.”

One takeaway this year was that a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective. “Every community has different levels of problems,” Burns said. “This epidemic is going to be solved using community-based solutions.”

The summit included a pharmacy track comprising seven sessions as well as clinical, prescription drug monitoring program and data surveillance, and other tracks of potential interest to pharmacists. Two of the pharmacy sessions zeroed in on the role of the pharmacist in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Another takeaway from the summit is that combining MAT with behavioral therapies shows positive outcomes in treating those with opioid use disorder, according to Burns.

Other takeaways included the need to balance efforts to curb opioid abuse with patient access to medications; scientific advances in trying to find better pain and opioid use disorder treatments; the public health movement to implement harm reduction strategies; and payers endeavoring to play a positive role.

For more information on the summit, visit its website at https://vendome.swoogo.com/2018-rx-summit.