Final Thoughts on Normalizing Naloxone and the Opioid Crisis


Multidisciplinary panel of experts share final thoughts on strategies to normalize naloxone and decrease barriers to its obtainment and utilization.

Peter Salgo, MD: In the little time that we have left, I want to go around and get some final thoughts from each one of you. I would like you to address the whole issue of using naloxone. How do you address this with patients? How do you address this with clinicians, and what is your view about going forward? How is this going to change the landscape of opioid use in the United States? Why don’t we start with Jeremy, and we will keep going from there? Take 30 seconds and we will just keep going.

Jeremy Adler, DMSc, PA-C, DFAAPA: I think that we have covered a lot of ground today. We know, and have known for a long time, that opioids have certain risks. They pose risks to patients, and they pose risks in the community when they are taken unsupervised or misused. From a safety measure perspective, there are things we can do. We can do a better job identifying the patients at risk or when identifying those patients who should or should not receive opioids. At the same time, I think we need more community awareness, and we can do this by using the naloxone program or some of the other programs discussed today. Rhode Island sounds amazing, and I am interested to learn more about what is happening out there. The tools we have today can enhance the safety of what we are doing on the medical side and help out there in the community with the substance misuse and illicit side. That is outside of the reach for some of us who do not work in settings where one can reach out to the community, but I think that these types of tools are underutilized. If these tools are utilized on a more frequent basis, and in a more normalized way, we have the potential to reverse what we have seen here with opioids and the subsequent harm caused by them.

Charles Argoff, MD: While acknowledging that opioids are still commonly used as part of a multidisciplinary approach to pain management and that opiates are still being misused illicitly, we need to have strategies that emphasize the availability of naloxone so that people can be as safe as possible. As Dr Adler said, this must be normalized, and we need to realize, when we think about this, it is going to take more years than we would like before it will become normalized, but we need to step it up and work toward that.

Jeffrey Bratberg, PharmD, FAPhA: I cannot agree more with my colleagues. I think that, when it comes to normalizing naloxone, we need to take the lessons we have learned from what successfully normalizes this method of treatment. Whether it is enacting policy interventions, having naloxone everywhere, putting up billboards, or getting that access. What we are doing is studying people, saying what makes you dispense naloxone, to pharmacists? Saying what makes you dispense it, to primary care physicians? What makes you want to give it, to a caregiver? What are those barriers? How do we break them down? I look forward to the day of over-the-counter naloxone that is still covered by insurance so we do not have financial barriers. There is a lot that we know, areas where we have been successful, and I think that yes, it is going to be around a long time. We have seen how COVID-19 has created these divisions. I think, by solving those divisions during COVID-19, we will solve some of the divisions in access to care for people with opioid use disorder or people who use opioids.

Joshua Lynch, DO, EMT-P, FAAEM, FACEP: I see naloxone as one part of the puzzle here, one part of the comprehensive approach that we try to take in the emergency department [ED], and that is decreasing the barriers that patients need to overcome to get naloxone. This is improving their access to naloxone not only in the ED but also in other areas of life where they have access to health care, and in their daily lives. Having it available works, whether it is having a naloxone box sitting next to an AED [automated external defibrillator] box somewhere or offering it to patients proactively and not requiring them to have to ask for it.

Additionally, I think that, as science for medication-assisted treatment continues to be redefined every day—how effective that is for treatment—it is our responsibility to not only make sure that our patients are safe as they go out and use this, or that their community is safer because naloxone is out there. But we also need to provide multiple opportunities for patients to get linked to treatment, to be linked to peers, and to have access to medication-assisted treatment. I think this is equally important and should be offered as routinely as possible.

Peter Salgo, MD: Theresa, some people hate to be the last one to speak because all the good stuff is taken.

Theresa Mallick-Searle, MS, RN-BC, ANP-BC: I just say that I agree with everyone.

Peter Salgo, MD: No, you cannot do that.

Theresa Mallick-Searle, MS, RN-BC, ANP-BC: As the token nurse on the platform here, I am really big into listening to my patients. It is not that my colleagues are not, but I want to hear what is important to the patient. I want to be able to have them partner with me in their health care. I want to be able to encourage my peers to look at the bigger community and be in it for the long term, to decrease the amount of fear that is out there. As a health care provider, for anything that we do, we are trying to do the best we can to take care of our patients.

Peter Salgo, MD: I want to thank all of you. What a great discussion this has been. I want to thank our viewing audience as well. We hope you found this Pharmacy Times® Peer Exchange useful, informative, and interesting.

I am Dr Peter Salgo, and I will see you again next time.

Transcript edited for clarity.

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