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APhA CEO Blog

Thinking about opioids and chronic pain

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January 23, 2018

While much remains in flux on Capitol Hill, the opioid epidemic is still a priority for Congress, which includes addressing treatment needs. APhA has a strong voice in this evolving conversation. We stand up for our patients and communities by ensuring policy makers and our fellow health care providers know what we can do to make meaningful progress in the fight against opioids.

Pharmacists are and always have been on the frontlines of the opioid crisis, and we will be a part of the many solutions to the problem.

In our ongoing discussions with Members of Congress and federal agencies, APhA emphasizes pharmacists’ ability to improve care for those suffering from mental and substance use disorders.

Pharmacists are already prominent providers of naloxone and are active in medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which combines FDA-approved buprenorphine and naltrexone with behavioral therapy. Pharmacists involved in MAT develop treatment plans, monitor patients, coordinate care, connect patients with behavioral therapy and other supportive programs, among other services—but there is much more we can do. Our message is that if pharmacists become eligible to obtain Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA) waivers—practitioners with a DATA waiver may prescribe schedule III medications for MAT in a broader array of settings without being subject to the onerous requirements opioid treatment programs must satisfy—patient access to opioid use disorder treatment would increase.

And always, we offer our members resources to help them provide the best possible care for patients with chronic pain and also help prevent abuse and misuse. We will hold our second APhA Pain Institute, Innovative Approaches to Chronic Pain, in conjunction with the 2018 APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition in Nashville. One of the focuses of this full-day, interactive learning experience is the use of nonopioid medications and nontherapeutic options for pain. You can register for the March 15 event at http://apha.us/APhA2018PainInstitute.

Join us in Nashville, March 16–19, for APhA2018 and hear much more about how pharmacists help patients and communities stay safe and healthy. I hope to see you there and to maintain a dialogue about what pharmacists can do to fight opioids.