The National Community Pharmacists Association has submitted recommendations to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on how to fight prescription drug abuse without forcing patients with legitimate medical issues to endure chronic pain.


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NPCA offers DOJ suggestions on combatting Rx abuse

May 19th, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The National Community Pharmacists Association has submitted recommendations to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on how to fight prescription drug abuse without forcing patients with legitimate medical issues to endure chronic pain.

NCPA said Friday that it sent a letter to Holder with its suggestions in response to his comments earlier this year that "opiate addiction is an urgent — and growing — public health crisis."

The association's recommendations, aimed at striking a balance between preventing abuse and preserving patient access to narcotic painkillers, included the following:

• More prescriber education. State medical licensing boards should consider making initial licensures or renewals contingent on continuing education on pain management and prescriber registration with a state prescription drug monitoring program.

• Easier verification methods for pharmacy staff to confirm prescriber DEA registration. NPCA noted that currently it can be unclear to pharmacy staff at the time of processing a prescription if a lapsed prescriber registration is still valid.

• Working group or commission on prescription drug abuse. Congressional legislation has been proposed to set up such a body to bring together law enforcement, health care providers and community advocates.

• Development prescription drug monitoring programs. Interoperable, robust electronic databases could identify improper prescribing behavior, dispensing trends and individuals at high-risk of abuse, NCPA noted.

• Practical disposal options for controlled substances. The association pointed out that many community pharmacies voluntarily dispose of their patients' unused or expired prescription drugs but can't lawfully accept controlled substances.

"Community pharmacists are on the front lines of health care and are often the last line of defense and a key asset in the prevention of prescription drug abuse," NCPA chief executive officer B. Douglas Hoey said in the letter to Holder, who heads the Department of Justice (DOJ). "Our members have seen firsthand the destruction that drug abuse can do to a community, including the proliferation of violent pharmacy crimes, and therefore are committed to eradicating prescription drug abuse."

NCPA also reminded Holder of the problems that community pharmacies face when trying to serve patients with legitimate prescriptions and a medical necessity for controlled substances. While supporting practices of the DOJ's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to crack down on illicit distribution practices, NCPA said it took issue with the DEA's "sometimes unclear communications to supply chain entities, potentially leading to severe consequences for community pharmacies and their patients, who have become collateral damage in the war on drugs."

A poll of 1,000-plus community pharmacists by NCPA earlier this year found that some of the most vulnerable patients, including seniors and those battling cancer, encounter obstacles to obtain medications prescribed to alleviate acute pain. Community pharmacists repeatedly complained of having their supplies or shipments of controlled substances shut off or delayed by their wholesalers, forcing patients to go to other pharmacies to get their medication. On average, 55 patients-per-pharmacy were impacted by such shipment delays, the survey found.

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