Call to arms

prescription drugs opioid deaths inquest addictive drugs dependence

Review findings highlight the vital role pharmacists can play in opioid stewardship

Findings from a new review show that pharmacists are ideally positioned to promote and implement effective opioid stewardship—providing there are co-ordinated activities and a consistent scope of practice.

The review, which set out to critically assess the role of pharmacists in opioid stewardship and inform future research, has identified key activities that pharmacists can undertake to help curb the impact of the opioid crisis.

The review findings show that in more than 90% of the incorporated studies opioid stewardship interventions conducted by either a pharmacist or in an interdisciplinary team resulted in improvements in at least one outcome measure.

The areas where the pharmacist had the biggest positive impact were in education, medication therapy adjustments, policy and guideline setting, and risk assessment.

Professor Lisa Nissen, co-author of the review, told the AJP  that the scoping review “forms the cornerstone of national collaboration with my colleagues from Canada who are seeking to utilise pharmacists to their full capacity. This means employing them broadly in the community to assist in managing what has been a complex and difficult health issue”.

“This is an area that needs not only a multi-level strategy but also a multi-disciplinary strategy to move forward. While pharmacists play a significant role in stewardship—particularly in community pharmacy – their role is part of a wider clinical team,” said Prof Nissen, head of the School of Clinical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology.

“The engagement of other partners and practitioners in conversations about the value and benefit pharmacists can play in opioid stewardship at a local, jurisdictional and national level is an individual and profession-level responsibility and strategy.

“This is a role that is certainly “in scope” for pharmacists across the continuum of practice, with primary care being a space where patients and community spend the majority of their time,” she said.

It’s intended that this review will be the basis for future research in the area, the authors said.

“What we have here, in my mind, is a call to arms,” said Prof Nissen. “The message is that pharmacists have a real opportunity to play an important role in opioid stewardship; they have the chance to make a genuine impact in many places that will save lives.”

The review findings were published in the journal Research In Social and Administrative Pharmacy


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