National Opioid Crisis: Expanding the Role of the Pharmacist

National Opioid Crisis: Expanding the Role of the Pharmacist

Publication date: Feb 11, 2020

To streamline the way opioid treatments are administered and to successfully treat addicts, a pharmacist’s clinical expertise is maximized in a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) setting within opioid treatment programs (OTPs).

For example, in addressing the opioid epidemic, pharmacists are strategically poised to provide services in opioid maintenance therapy (OMT), pain management and opioid dosage reduction with weaning schedules. Since OTP sites require physician oversight, a relationship with an addiction specialist would be necessary for a pharmacy if it was to apply to become an OTP.

In addition, pharmacists would work closely with affiliated OTPs and be able to provide drug-related recommendations. It would be advantageous for the pharmacy profession and industry to expand the roles of pharmacists to include more non-traditional roles, such as OMT and advocates for reimbursable services regarding opioid management. The issue of how to make it worthwhile for a pharmacist to expand their duties to incorporate OTPs into their daily responsibilities needs to be taken into consideration.

However, becoming trained and certified to become a medication unit and MAT provider in the pharmacy, which would be required to manage an addicted patient with methadone, would require additional time, effort, and resources. The reimbursement for dispensing a methadone prescription on a daily basis would not warrant the expense of having a pharmacist monitoring a patient for opioid abuse disorder.

If a model could be established to partner pharmacies with established OTPs and create a fair level of reimbursement for a pharmacist’s clinical services, this would serve as a win-win because it would expand the program as well as the pharmacist’s clinical role in MAT. A model for clinical services that has been implemented with collaboration among nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and pharmacists housed within the pharmacy to provide primary care services in an outpatient setting is the CVS MinuteClinic.

In this example of a team approach, CVS demonstrates the value of pairing pharmacists with clinicians to achieve better outcomes for their patients. This model could be conducive to setting up a free-standing OTP with a pharmacist dispensing methadone for MAT and managing the patient’s maintenance medication needs.

The pharmacist’s clinical expertise in medication management should be maximized in a MAT setting in an OTP. Nivedita Kohli earned her Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from the BouvcE9 College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University and is currently enrolled in the Master of Pharmacy Business Administration (MPBA) program at the University of Pittsburgh, a 12-month, executive-style graduate education program designed for working professionals striving to be tomorrow’s leaders in pharmacy business.

Concepts Keywords
Addiction Methadone clinic
Alcohol Opioid use disorder
Bill Pharmacist
Bipartisan Ketones
Business Administration Pharmacy
CDC Substance dependence
Counseling RTT
CVS Articles
Demographic Drug rehabilitation
Epidemic Health
Erie County Counseling
Force Pain management
Healthcare Behavioral therapies
Heroin Substance disorders
Managed Care Pain
Methadone Opioid epidemic pharmacists
Nurse Practitioner Opioid epidemic fund
Nurse Practitioners Educational healthcare practitioners
Opioid Care services
Opioid Addiction Supportive services
Opioid Dependence Advocates reimbursable services
Opioid Epidemic Opioid management
Opioid Overdose Pain management
Pain Management
Pharmacy Benefit Management
Physician Assistants
Primary Care
Socioeconomic Status
Win Win


Type Source Name
disease MESH Opioid abuse
drug DRUGBANK Ilex paraguariensis leaf
disease MESH substance use disorders
drug DRUGBANK Methadone
drug DRUGBANK Diamorphine
drug DRUGBANK Ethanol
disease MESH communities
disease MESH weaning
drug DRUGBANK Tropicamide
disease MESH drug interactions


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