Leveraging the role of community pharmacists in the prevention, surveillance, and treatment of opioid use disorders Bach, Paxton; Hartung, Daniel
The global rise in opioid-related harms has impacted the United States severely. Current efforts to manage the opioid crisis have prompted a re-evaluation of many of the existing roles in the healthcare system, in order to maximize their individual effects on reducing opioid-associated morbidity and preventing overdose deaths. As one of the most accessible healthcare professionals in the US, pharmacists are well-positioned to participate in such activities. Historically, US pharmacists have had a limited role in the surveillance and treatment of substance use disorders. This narrative review explores the literature describing novel programs designed to capitalize on the role of the community pharmacist in helping to reduce opioid-related harms, as well as evaluations of existing practices already in place in the US and elsewhere around the world. Specific approaches examined include strategies to facilitate pharmacist monitoring for problematic opioid use, to increase pharmacy-based harm reduction efforts (including naloxone distribution and needle exchange programs), and to involve community pharmacists in the dispensation of opioid agonist therapy (OAT). Each of these activities present a potential means to further engage pharmacists in the identification and treatment of opioid use disorders (OUDs). Through a careful examination of these approaches, we hope that new strategies can be adopted to leverage the unique role of the community pharmacist to help reduce opioid-related harms in the US.
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