ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Jan. 9, 2014) — Some of society’s most vulnerable patients, including seniors and those battling cancer, face a significant struggle to obtain medications prescribed to alleviate crippling pain, according to a survey of 1,000-plus community pharmacists conducted by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA). In addition, surprise disruptions in an unpredictable supply chain make it impossible for many community pharmacists to assure patients that their prescription for these controlled substances can be filled the following month, the survey found.
“Vulnerable patients are increasingly and tragically becoming collateral damage in the country’s battle against the abuse of prescription drugs, particularly narcotic painkillers,” said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA. “In the survey, community pharmacists repeatedly cited having their supplies or shipments of controlled substances abruptly shut off by their wholesalers, which may have done so due to perceived pressure, intimidation or a lack of clear guidance from law enforcement officials, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).”
Key points from the survey include:
The survey included an open-ended section in which community pharmacists shared hundreds of observations, including the following:
In presentations to Congress and to the Food and Drug Administration and DEA, NCPA has recommended steps to combat prescription drug abuse, while protecting patients. They include electronic prescription drug monitoring programs and tracking systems, more effective education of prescribers, shutting down rogue pain clinics, offering more disposal options for excess medications and more scrutiny of controlled substances delivered by mail order pharmacies.