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How Pharmacists Can Play an Even Bigger Role in Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

Most states allow pharmacists to give naloxone to the public without a prescription, which gives them a critical role in curbing opioid overdoses.

However, pharmacists can play an even larger role in the care of these patients. They receive years of training to educate patients, manage and monitor medications (including for side effects and drug interactions), and, in some cases, order medications. Allowing pharmacists to practice at the full extent of their education expands access to care. 

When pharmacists gained the authority to administer flu shots and other vaccinations, immunization rates significantly increased. As a result, 280,000 pharmacists are now trained to administer vaccines.

Long-acting injectable medications are used to treat mental health conditions and substance use disorders, and help assure patients get their medications as prescribed. In many states, trained pharmacists can administer these medications in community pharmacies and clinic settings, improving access to treatment just as they do with vaccinations. 

Expanding access to care

Pharmacists can also expand access, optimize the impact of medications and improve medication safety by providing patient care services beyond just dispensing medications. The majority of states allow pharmacists to prescribe or adjust patient medications, and monitor medication effects in collaboration with a physician through laws permitting “collaborative practice.” 

These pharmacists, who most frequently work in clinics and hospitals, often have additional training and certifications. Patients with substance use disorders and mental illness often require complicated medication regimens. 

Collaboration between prescribers and these specialized pharmacists helps optimize medication selection, improve safety, and expand access to care, especially in areas with a shortage of health professionals.

Employing new strategies is key to increasing access to treatment for mental illness and substance use disorders. Utilizing pharmacists’ extensive education and skills in medication management can help address the gap in care.

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