Pharmacists Must Fight the Opioid Epidemic

Pharmacy Times, August 2022, Volume 88, Issue 8

With the opioid epidemic raging out of control, pharmacists are essential warriors in the fight against this scourge.

With the opioid epidemic raging out of control, pharmacists are essential warriors in the fight against this scourge. On the front lines of dispensing pain medications and providing drug-related counseling, pharmacists can help by preventing and treating opioid use disorder and overdoses.

The numbers paint a bleak picture. Drug overdose deaths increased by nearly 5% between 2018 and 2019 and have quadrupled since 1999, and more than 70% of the 70,630 deaths in 2019 involved an opioid, according to the CDC.1

The situation has not improved. The CDC estimates that more than 107,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States between December 2020 and December 2021.2

The CDC offers resources for pharmacists to use in fighting the opioid epidemic, including an information sheet with tips on starting conversations with patients, preventing abuse, and red flags such as altered or forged prescriptions, cash payments, early or inconsistent fills, and multiple prescribers.3 Other resources are available from the American Pharmacists Association, the US Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Pharmacy Times® will continue to bring pharmacists the latest news and resources to help them play a part in fighting this national crisis.

Meanwhile, with the new school year about to begin, our Cover Feature in this issue details everything pharmacists need to know about COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens. Also in this issue, we look at preventing and treating atopic dermatitis flare-ups, reducing dietary sodium for older adults with hypertension, preventing drug interactions with nirmatrelvir/ritonavir (Paxlovid), assessing OTC medications, and foot care for patients with diabetes. Our Technician Focus explores cultural competence for pharmacy technicians and how training and knowledge about appropriate communication with individuals of diverse backgrounds improves adherence and outcomes.

Enjoy the rest of the summer, and thanks for reading.

References

1. Understanding the epidemic. CDC. Updated March 17, 2021. Accessed August 4, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html

2. Provisional drug overdose death counts. CDC. Updated July 13, 2022. Accessed August 4, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/drug-overdose-data.htm

3. Pharmacists: on the front lines. CDC. Accessed August 4, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/pharmacists_brochure-a.pdf