This week, the White House and the Administration invited representatives of the NACDS membership to two separate events. Drug abuse and access issues emerged as key topics of discussion at both of them, and it is clear that the need remains for pharmacy to keep urging a 100-percent commitment to patient care, amid a zero-tolerance for drug abuse.

The need remains for pharmacy to keep urging a 100-percent commitment to patient care, amid a zero-tolerance for drug abuse.

By now, you have seen that President Obama traveled to West Virginia on Wednesday to announce “public and private sector efforts to address prescription drug abuse and heroin use.” NACDS was mentioned in a White House release about this event, with a description of NACDS’ educational initiatives related to opioid overdose and the anti-overdose medication naloxone. NACDS chain members were in attendance. Certainly, NACDS as an association and NACDS member companies are working partners toward a solution for drug abuse.

Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, a cross-section of NACDS members also was invited to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, with the 2016 enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace topping the agenda. I was invited by the Secretary as well to represent NACDS. At that meeting, we also raised with the Secretary the need for continued efforts to bring a united effort – including health and enforcement authorities alike – to address simultaneously the challenges of prescription drug abuse and legitimate prescription drug access. It is important to emphasize at every opportunity the need for true collaboration to ensure all aspects of these issues are addressed effectively.

NACDS opinion research – conducted in July of this year – shows that likely voters are understanding the complexity of these issues, and the need to address all sides of them. Nearly 8-in-10 agreed (and more than 4-in-10 strongly agreed) with the statement that “pharmacies have a dual role when it comes to battling prescription drug abuse; they have to be part of the solution by working with law enforcement officials to stop prescription drug abuse, but they also have to maintain their responsibilities to patients by making sure they receive the medications they legitimately need.”

Given the state of these issues right now, 32 percent of respondents in the research commissioned by NACDS feel there needs to be more emphasis in our country placed on cracking down on the abuse of prescription pain medication by establishing stricter guidelines and rules for how this medication can be dispensed; 49 percent of respondents feel there needs to be more emphasis on ensuring that the patients who legitimately need prescription pain medications are still able to easily get them when they need them; and 19 percent feel the nation has reached a reasonable balance when it comes to this issue.