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Stanford University School of Medicine

Stanford pain expert has advice for pharmacists on how to curtail the opioid crisis

painkiller-pillThe country's pharmacists could potentially play a powerful role in reducing opioid addiction and drug-overdose deaths, which have grown dramatically in recent years. But how exactly should they help?

Stanford pain expert Elliot Krane, MD, has some ideas. This Saturday, he'll be giving a keynote address, “Inside America's Opioid Epidemic: Pharmacists on the Front Lines,” at the annual meeting of the American Pharmacists Association in San Francisco. He plans to share his view of the opioid crisis, including the epidemiology of the problem and how pharmacists can be involved in possible solutions. Krane spoke recently with to give a preview of his talk. Here's Krane on how pharmacists can help keep opioids out of the wrong hands:

One solution could be for pharmacists and physicians in states or at the national level with their corresponding societies to work together to establish a system with a national database of prescribers and patients. The database should be national because patients often live near state borders. Every opioid prescription should be checked against the database to make sure there’s no suspicion of diversion or multiple sourcing of controlled substances. There can be a method that would recognize and tag individuals who are not legitimate pain patients, like a national no-fly list.

However, solutions for the opioid crisis have to be crafted in such a way that people who have a genuine need are still able to receive the pain medications they need, he cautions:

A lot of patients who have legitimate pain and take higher-than-average dosages of pain medications are treated with suspicion... These patients should not be denied their opioid prescriptions because of the blanket application of recent guidelines, but it’s a growing trend to deny them. Sudden withdrawal because of denied prescriptions can lead to calamitous medical complications and even suicide, which has been documented to have occurred in the present climate.

The entire Q&A is worth a read.

Previously: Repeal of ACA would worsen opioid epidemic, Stanford researcher says, Drug Dealer, MD: A look at the opioid epidemic and Is pain in the brain? A pain psychologist discusses alternative to opioids
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