Pharmacists May Be Able To Help Prevent Opioid Overdoses

Pharmacists May Be Able To Help Prevent Opioid Overdoses
Photo Courtesy: UPI

BOSTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Researchers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island recommend in a new study promoting pharmacists as a method to educate and distribute naloxone shots to those at risk for overdose when using opioid-based painkillers.

The study is meant to serve as a guideline to implement a naloxone program in the two states after Boston Medical Center received a $1.3 million grant to run a pilot program aimed at reducing addiction and death to the widely-prescribed, and abused, prescription painkillers. Opioid drugs include oxycodone, percocet and morphine, as well as heroin, which is not used medically.

“Reducing overdose risk while maintaining access to prescription opioids when medically indicated requires careful consideration of how opioids are prescribed and dispensed, how patients use them, how they interact with other medications, and how they are safely stored,” researchers wrote in the study, published in the Harm Reduction Journal. “Pharmacists, highly trained professionals expert at detecting and managing medication errors and drug-drug interactions, safe dispensing, and patient counseling, are an under-utilized asset in addressing overdose in the US and globally.”

Naloxone is used in many countries over-the-counter for treatment of opioid-induced severe respiratory depression, which can lead to death. While the drug is not a controlled substance in the United States, researchers write that it often is not employed, and could be more effective at preventing overdoses if more people had access.

In the study, researchers propose that pharmacists already exist as an educational and supply chain, using a $1.3 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to partner with CVS Health as part of a trial program to test the efficacy of their idea.

“We are encountering an unprecedented public health crisis related to opioid abuse and overdose,” said Dr. Traci Green, deputy director of Boston Medical Center’s Injury Prevention Center, in a press release. “Given that nearly every community has a pharmacy, there is a tremendous opportunity to help save lives by allowing pharmacists to provide naloxone rescue kits to those at risk for overdose.”


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