Chris Christie-led presidential initiative targets opioid epidemic
ARLINGTON, Va. — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores described retail pharmacy as a strong partner in the fight against drug abuse in a letter to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, chairman of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Epidemic.
NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson noted in the letter that chain pharmacies engage in activities every day to thwart drug abuse and diversion.
“The ongoing opioid abuse problem concerns both legal and illicit substances; that is, prescription opioids as well as heroin and illegal fentanyl analogs,” Anderson stated. “NACDS and the chain pharmacy industry are committed to partnering with law enforcement agencies, policymakers and others to work on viable strategies to prevent prescription drug diversion and abuse, including prescription opioids.”
A positive statistic, Anderson said in the letter, is the decrease in the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed annually, dropping nearly 15% from 2013 to 2016.
“Since chain pharmacies operate in almost every community in the U.S., we support policies and initiatives to combat the prescription drug abuse problem nationwide,” he wrote. “We believe that holistic approaches must be implemented at the federal level. We are pleased that we are helping to solve the opioid abuse problem.”
President Donald Trump formed the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Epidemic in a March 29 executive order as a way to assess drug addiction and abuse in the United States and determine actions that the federal government could take.
The commission held its first meeting on June 16 and plans to issue interim recommendations this summer and a final report on Oct. 1.
Besides Christie, a Republican, commission members include Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R.), North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D.) and former congressman Patrick Kennedy (D., R.I.).
“Pharmacists take their role in helping to ensure safe use of medications very seriously, but they cannot do it alone,” Anderson said in the letter. “We support a collaborative approach to curb prescription drug abuse and preserve patient access to their medically necessary pain medications. We believe that there are a variety of ways to help curb prescription drug diversion, and chain pharmacies actively work on many initiatives to reduce this problem.”
NACDS said opportunities to curb opioid abuse include enhancing current strategies, such as more prescriber and patient education; a more robust national database for controlled substances in prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs); expedited deployment of electronic prescribing for controlled substances; limiting initial fills of controlled substance prescriptions; and the continuation of pharmacies’ efforts to widen access to the overdose antidote naloxone and make it easier for customers to dispose of expired, unused or unwanted medicines.
Other NACDS recommendations include increased targeting of illicit Internet drug sellers and stepped-up efforts to clamp down on rogue pain clinics, which the association said have inflated dispensing of the oft-abused narcotic painkiller oxycodone.
NACDS also has endorsed legislation to aid in the drug abuse fight, including the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, both signed into law last year by President Barack Obama.
“NACDS appreciates the opportunity to provide input to the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis as the commission studies the scope and effectiveness of the federal response to drug addiction and the opioid crisis and develops recommendations to the president for improving that response,” Anderson commented in the letter. “We look forward to continued collaboration with the Trump administration in the coming years,” he added.