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Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2014 Sep 15;71(18):1539-54. doi: 10.2146/ajhp140157.

The opioid abuse and misuse epidemic: implications for pharmacists in hospitals and health systems.

Author information

1
Daniel J. Cobaugh, Pharm.D., DABAT, FAACT, is Vice President, ASHP Research and Education Foundation, Bethesda, MD. Carl Gainor, J.D., Ph.D., is Clinical Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. Cynthia L. Gaston, Pharm.D., BCPS, is Medication Use Policy Analyst, UW Health, Madison, WI. Tai C. Kwong, Ph.D., is Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and Director, Hematology and Chemistry Labs, Strong Memorial Hospital, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY. Barbarajean Magnani, Ph.D., M.D., is Chair and Pathologist-in-Chief, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Tufts Medical Center, and Professor and Chair, Department of Anatomic and Clinical Pathology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA. Mary Lynn McPherson, Pharm.D., BCPS, CPE, is Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, Baltimore. Jacob T. Painter, Pharm.D., M.B.A., Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Evaluation and Policy, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock. Edward P. Krenzelok, Pharm.D., FAACT, FEAPCCT, DABAT, is Professor Emeritus, School of Pharmacy, University of Pittsburgh. dcobaugh@ashp.org.
2
Daniel J. Cobaugh, Pharm.D., DABAT, FAACT, is Vice President, ASHP Research and Education Foundation, Bethesda, MD. Carl Gainor, J.D., Ph.D., is Clinical Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. Cynthia L. Gaston, Pharm.D., BCPS, is Medication Use Policy Analyst, UW Health, Madison, WI. Tai C. Kwong, Ph.D., is Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and Director, Hematology and Chemistry Labs, Strong Memorial Hospital, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY. Barbarajean Magnani, Ph.D., M.D., is Chair and Pathologist-in-Chief, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Tufts Medical Center, and Professor and Chair, Department of Anatomic and Clinical Pathology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA. Mary Lynn McPherson, Pharm.D., BCPS, CPE, is Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, Baltimore. Jacob T. Painter, Pharm.D., M.B.A., Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Evaluation and Policy, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock. Edward P. Krenzelok, Pharm.D., FAACT, FEAPCCT, DABAT, is Professor Emeritus, School of Pharmacy, University of Pittsburgh.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

The current epidemic of prescription opioid abuse and misuse in the United States is discussed, with an emphasis on the pharmacist's role in ensuring safe and effective opioid use.

SUMMARY:

U.S. sales of prescription opioids increased fourfold from 1999 to 2010, with an alarming rise in deaths and emergency department visits associated with the use of fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and other opioid medications. Signs and symptoms of opioid toxicity may include altered mental status, hypoventilation, decreased bowel motility, central nervous system and respiratory depression, peripheral vasodilation, pulmonary edema, hypotension, bradycardia, and seizures. In patients receiving long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain, urine drug testing is an important tool for monitoring and assessment of therapy; knowledge of opioid metabolic pathways and assay limitations is essential for appropriate use and interpretation of screening and confirmatory tests. In recent years, there has been an increase in federal enforcement actions against pharmacies and prescription drug wholesalers involved in improper opioid distribution, as well as increased reliance on state-level prescription drug monitoring programs to track patterns of opioid use and improper sales. Pharmacies are urged to implement or promote appropriate guidelines on opioid therapy, including the use of pain management agreement plans; policies to ensure adequate oversight of opioid prescribing, dispensing, and waste disposal; and educational initiatives targeting patients as well as hospital and pharmacy staff.

CONCLUSION:

Pharmacists in hospitals and health systems can play a key role in recognizing the various forms of opioid toxicity and in preventing inappropriate prescribing and diversion of opioids.

PMID:
25174015
DOI:
10.2146/ajhp140157
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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