New law addresses opioid abuse, highlights pharmacist’s role

Last week, President Barack Obama signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA), which provides a framework for opioid abuse prevention and treatment.

The law includes several provisions that emphasize the pharmacist’s vital role in caring for patients, including expanded access to naloxone; increased disposal options; allowing partial fills for Schedule II controlled substances; and grants to educate pharmacists. The law also mandates the creation of a federal pain management task force to find discrepancies between best practices for pain management and opioid prescribing guidelines. A pharmacist will be included on the task force.

Prior to being passed, the CARA bill included a provision that would have required a pharmacist to consult their state prescription drug monitoring program every time they fill a Schedule II, III, or IV prescription. APhA met with both the House and Senate conferees and requested that this provision not be in the final package. I am pleased to let you know that the final package DOES NOT contain this provision.

The fact that this provision did not become part of the final legislation is a recognition of several key facts: 1) prescription drug monitoring programs are increasingly helpful to pharmacists with dispensing decisions, 2) checking for every controlled substance order would have negated our judgement and knowledge of so many of our patients, AND 3) it would have brought our workflow to a standstill. We are grateful to the conference committee for recognizing our concerns and for their work.

The health care system and policy makers are increasingly aware of the contributions pharmacists can make to patient care—if empowered to do so, and not encumbered by nonproductive administrative processes. Stay tuned for more on this front in the coming weeks.

Read our news article on for more information about CARA and how it will have an impact on pharmacists and patient care.