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Pharmacists and pain management

  • July 22, 2009
  • RPh on the Go

It has been almost three weeks since Michael Jackson’s death and I thought the media circus would change to another topic. But it seems that there was a recent survey conducted by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacist (AHSP) to 200 pharmacists, who worked in ambulatory and chronic care practice, asking them if there was an increase public concern on the abuse of pain medication. This survey stemmed from a possible link to Michael Jackson’s death and his alleged prescription drug abuse. Of the 200 pharmacists surveyed, 30% of them said that there is a concern among patients about the risk of abuse on prescription pain medication.

It seems the media have made the public outcry on the dangers of prescription drug abuse with the main focus on prescription pain medication. Keep in mind that Pain Management is nothing new. The Joint Commission made it a focal criterion during the mid-1980’s. There is a specialty for pharmacists to become experts in this field. Even though pain management has been around for some time, pharmacists aren’t as fluent as they would like to be in this dynamic field.

There have been errors found when a lethal dose of a narcotic has been dispensed for a child instead of an adult in a several hospitals. There have been errors found in the retail setting from drug diversions to incorrectly converting one equivalent opioid to another. This has been a problem pharmacist face for quite some time. We have taken for granted that prescription pain medications are extremely potent and when used improperly they can cause serious harm or even death.

There are valuable resources within our grasp to train ourselves to provide better pain management service. Majority of patients you may encounter will complain of pain. By assessing their pain, the pharmacist may be able to direct the patient to an OTC pain medication or refer them to a doctor.

We need to be the gate keepers to provide our vast knowledge to the community. With healthcare being extremely expensive and on the rise, we should be the first line in providing adequate assessment and advice in regards to pain management. By helping the physician provide better pain management to their patients, we can minimize the patient’s risk for drug abuse and addiction and provide the adequate relief for their pain. Most important, we are cutting down on healthcare cost.

If you are interested, the FDA offers a guide to the safe use of pain medications:

http://www.fda.gov/ ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm095673.htm

Cyrus Pacis is a pharmacist who often works on long-term relief pharmacy jobs through RPh on the Go.

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