Community pharmacists are central to public health emergency planning and response efforts.
A federal push to partner with community pharmacists could be instrumental in preparing for public health emergencies and also address existing problems such as the national opioid addiction crisis, according to the results of a study published by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and funded by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS).
Titled, “Serving the Greater Good: Public Health and Community Pharmacy Partnerships,” the paper describes ways to optimize pharmacy’s role in public health priorities, including confronting the opioid abuse crisis, fostering pandemic and emergency preparedness, and addressing antibiotic resistance.
In an accompanying editorial published in Morning Consult, Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, and Gigi Kwik Gronvall, PhD, senior associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said that "pharmacists are already serving as working public health partners for solutions on many fronts."
Coinciding with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) US Antibiotic Awareness Week and the CDC’s newly re-branded Be Antibiotics Aware campaign, the opinion column, which can be found here, focuses on the study’s findings related to that issue.
“Health care professionals are realizing it is time to act now to prevent a heartbreaking development: families that must be told nothing can be done to save a loved one. That is a real possibility when an out-of-control bacterial infection can overpower antibiotics rendered ineffective due to overuse,” Anderson and Gronvall wrote in the op-ed. “Pharmacists have the experience, access, and resources to play an integral role in helping to stop this threat.”
The "Greater Good" piece notes that "the national opioid addiction crisis presents a critical opportunity for community pharmacy to collaborate with public health entities and make a difference in reducing the number of new addictions, facilitating addiction treatment and other care, and providing access to life-saving medication in the event of an overdose." The piece says that community pharmacists already are taking a strong role in health care in combating opioid abuse, with "takeback" programs for unused medications and others, but efforts could go even further. "In particular, issues of access, liability, and payment need to be addressed, especially for naloxone, which is often not made available to individuals addicted to opioids but rather to third parties who may be able to prevent an overdose," the authors wrote.
The op-ed also said that community pharmacists can play a strong role in emergency planning, including expanding their roles by authorizing them to perform diagnostic tests for public health emergencies, such as a pandemic influenza, when needed.
The full study is available at centerforhealthsecurity.org.