PHARMACY

Anderson: Events with Obama, Burwell highlight NACDS’ focus on drug abuse, access issues

BY Steve Anderson

This week, the White House and the Administration invited representatives of the NACDS membership to two separate events. Drug abuse and access issues emerged as key topics of discussion at both of them, and it is clear that the need remains for pharmacy to keep urging a 100-percent commitment to patient care, amid a zero-tolerance for drug abuse.

By now, you have seen that President Obama traveled to West Virginia on Wednesday to announce “public and private sector efforts to address prescription drug abuse and heroin use.” NACDS was mentioned in a White House release about this event, with a description of NACDS’ educational initiatives related to opioid overdose and the anti-overdose medication naloxone. NACDS chain members were in attendance. Certainly, NACDS as an association and NACDS member companies are working partners toward a solution for drug abuse.

Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, a cross-section of NACDS members also was invited to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, with the 2016 enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace topping the agenda. I was invited by the Secretary as well to represent NACDS. At that meeting, we also raised with the Secretary the need for continued efforts to bring a united effort – including health and enforcement authorities alike – to address simultaneously the challenges of prescription drug abuse and legitimate prescription drug access. It is important to emphasize at every opportunity the need for true collaboration to ensure all aspects of these issues are addressed effectively.

NACDS opinion research – conducted in July of this year – shows that likely voters are understanding the complexity of these issues, and the need to address all sides of them. Nearly 8-in-10 agreed (and more than 4-in-10 strongly agreed) with the statement that “pharmacies have a dual role when it comes to battling prescription drug abuse; they have to be part of the solution by working with law enforcement officials to stop prescription drug abuse, but they also have to maintain their responsibilities to patients by making sure they receive the medications they legitimately need."

Given the state of these issues right now, 32 percent of respondents in the research commissioned by NACDS feel there needs to be more emphasis in our country placed on cracking down on the abuse of prescription pain medication by establishing stricter guidelines and rules for how this medication can be dispensed; 49 percent of respondents feel there needs to be more emphasis on ensuring that the patients who legitimately need prescription pain medications are still able to easily get them when they need them; and 19 percent feel the nation has reached a reasonable balance when it comes to this issue.

NACDS.org includes more information about NACDS’ consistent focus on prescription drug abuse and access issues. In reviewing the information, you will be struck by NACDS’ discipline in maintaining focus on the “abuse” and “access” aspects of these complicated issues. It is NACDS’ mission to inject that comprehensive focus at every opportunity and among all stakeholders. 

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PHARMACY

QS/1 launches DeliveryRx iPad app

BY David Salazar

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Pharmacy software solutions company QS/1 has announced another new product, the Qs/1 DeliveryRx app for iPads, which can facilitate prescription delivery without internet access or a cell signal. The free app can accept payment, record transactions and capture signatures for controlled substances across multiple stores.

“Customer service is the backbone of independent pharmacies,” said Justin Buckland, QS/1 Market Analyst. “This new app allows pharmacies to show their commitment to top-notch customer service and place themselves ahead of the competition.”

The app is compatible with pharmacies using QS/1’s NRx Pharmacy Management Sytem and its Point-of-Sale software.

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Obama announces massive push to curb opioid abuse, heroin use

BY David Salazar

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has unveiled a major new push to curtail the effects of prescription drug abuse and heroin use across federal, state and local governments and agencies, as well as in the private sector. The efforts include more than 40 provider groups and more than half a million healthcare providers who will complete prescriber training in the next two years.

To kick off the push, Obama hosted a community forum in Charleston, W.V. — the state that has the country’s highest rate of death from drug overdose — where he discussed the impact that drug abuse has on communities.

“In 2013 alone, overdoses from prescription pain medications killed more than 16,000 Americans,” Obama said in remarks before the forum. ”I don’t have to tell you this is a terrible toll. … This crisis is taking lives — it’s destroying families and shattering communities all across the country. And that’s the thing about substance abuse — it doesn’t discriminate. It touches everybody.”

At the center of the effort are two steps that the president detailed in a memo all federal departments and agencies. The principal undertaking is education. Obama plans to have agencies provide prescriber training among federal health care professionals — a move that addresses concerns raised recently by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which noted that prescribing behavior, which varies widely between states, was one of the biggest contributors to opioid abuse. In addition, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will develop an education campaign for health care professionals, and will issue a report on substance abuse, addiction and health next year.

Alongside the need for prescribers to be properly trained is the need for patients to have access to treatments. As a result, Obama has directed federal agencies and departments to provide, contract to provide, reimburse or facilitate easy access to health benefits and to find barriers to treatment for those with opioid use issues.

“Rather than spending billions of dollars — taxpayer dollars — on long prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, we could save money and get better outcomes by getting treatment to those who need it,” Obama said. 

Community pharmacy is at the center of the access and outcomes issue, and pharmacy organizations are joining the president’s push to fight opioid abuse, both in terms of access and education.

In terms of access, CVS Health will allow its CVS/pharmacy locations to provide the opioid overdose treatment naloxone to patients without a prescription in 20 more states next year. It will also launch its Pharmacists Teach prevention program, through which pharmacists will speak to 2,500 high school health classes. Over the next year, Rite Aid will be training 6,000 pharmacists about naloxone and will expand its naloxone dispensing program.

When it comes to education, organizations representing pharmacy are at the forefront of sharing information with members. The National Community Pharmacists Association will be distributing inserts highlighting safe drug disposal and the benefits of naloxone, and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores will also share information about overdoses and the ways naloxone can help with overdoses. Additionally, the American Pharmacists Association will educate pharmacists and pharmacy students with its new resource center on abuse and misuse of opioids.

Access to prescription drug monitoring programs will be enhanced for physicians and pharmacists in Ky., Del., N.D. and Ariz. in 2016, and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists will train and education 40,000 pharmacists, students and technicians.

Beyond the pharmacy sector and healthcare organizations’ involvement, such community organizations as the Elks and the Fraternal Order of Police, state and local governments and such law-enforcement agencies as the Drug Enforcement Administration are joining this effort.

Over the next two to three years, the hope is that there will be twice as many physicians able to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder and prescribe naloxone, and twice as many providers registered with their states’ prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) as there are today. 

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