In partnership with the Governor’s Institute and the North Carolina Department of Public Health, the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists implemented a one-year harm reduction program for community pharmacists, whereby pharmacists completed opioid misuse prevention and harm reduction trainings, with an emphasis on patient care services and practice transformation. A total of 58 pharmacies across 33 counties participated in the program, including pharmacies in 14 of 15 targeted high burden counties.*

Pharmacists who completed the training reported increased knowledge and skills, as well as comfort in addressing Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) with their patients. Many pharmacists reported heightened awareness and appreciation of the critical role they can play for their patients and communities. Challenges were also identified, including the cost of naloxone, and the lack of insurance coverage for screenings, assessments and ongoing monitoring necessary for identifying risk and improving patient safety. Naloxone dispensing was a key intervention, and overall, the participating pharmacies increased naloxone dispensing an astonishing 361%, from 177 in June 2018 to 639 in June 2019.

This project, an element of a larger Governor’s Institute initiative and funded by a CDC grant to the North Carolina Division of Health and Human Services / Department of Public Health, is part of an effort to provide targeted education and technical assistance to nonphysician providers such as NPs, PAs, and pharmacists.  Funding for similar work will continue in FY 2020.  According to Dr. Penny Shelton, Executive Director for the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists, “the accessibility of community pharmacists, and the rapport they build, as healthcare professionals, with patients, physicians and their communities, makes them uniquely positioned to help reduce the misuse and risk of narcotic pain medications. NCAP is committed to helping equip pharmacists with the information, tools and resources needed to make a positive difference in our state’s battle against the opioid epidemic.  We are very grateful for the opportunity to have partnered with the Governor’s Institute and Department of Public Health on this important harm reduction initiative.”

For information on the NCAP Harm Reduction Program, contact Penny Shelton at penny@ncpharmacists.org or (984) 439-1646.

* High burden is determined based on rate of opioid OD deaths and ED visits and 2 prescribing metrics, total MME (>50 MME) and co-prescribing of opioids and benzodiazepines.