Pharmacists receive extra training to prevent excess opioid prescriptions

Updated: Dec. 12, 2019 at 5:42 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Memphis pharmacy company is making sure pharmacists are trained to fight the opioid epidemic by rolling out a new continuing education plan to stop addiction and spare lives.

In 2018, during then-Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s administration Tennessee overhauled its prescribing laws to fight the opioid epidemic by putting prescribing limits in place. And while statistics are showing positive signs, medical professionals said there’s more work to be done.

“Almost all the states we work in have some sort of opioid issue going on,” said Rod Recor, Chief Marketing Officer of Comprehensive Pharmacy Services.

The Memphis company has operations in 47 states with 1,600 pharmacists running pharmacies in health care facilities.

“More and more pharmacists are becoming part of care teams. In many of our hospital clients, we have care team approaches to delivering care,” he said.

The company just announced a new stewardship program, a 20-hour training module with video lectures, written activities, and a practicum. The program is aimed at training pharmacists to limit opioid use and find other ways to treat chronic pain. Recor said the company just started their first class of participants.

“This stewardship program really goes to supporting those rules and legislation in Tennessee and other states as well,” he said.

Tennessee tightened opioid prescribing rules in 2018 under a plan known as TN Together. Doctors can write a 3-day opioid prescription with no requirements before prescribing. But doctors may only issue a 10 or 20 day prescription after checking a state controlled substance monitoring database (CSMD), explaining why an opioid was issued, and including a specific diagnosis. Doctors may only prescribe 30-day dosages for “medical necessity.”

The Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) reports opioid prescriptions in the state have continued to decrease and inquiries to the CSMD have increased dramatically, a positive sign, showing more medical professionals are logging in and engaging in prevention.

Despite that, statewide drug overdose deaths attributed to opioids are still trending up, sitting at 1,304 in 2018, the highest in a 5-year time span.

Shelby County reported 123 opioid overdose deaths in 2018, according to TN Department of Health data. That number is down from 159 in the year 2017.

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