Arlington, Va. – The Daytona Beach News-Journal published a joint op-ed on June 17 by Florida Retail Federation President and CEO Rick McAllister and National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) President and CEO Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE emphasizing their commitment to helping preserve patient access to prescription medication and helping prevent drug abuse.
Chain retail pharmacies are important parts of the solutions to the challenges we are facing in Florida and are committed to partnering with state and federal agencies, law enforcement and health care professionals to find workable solutions to this complex problem.
NACDS and the Florida Retail Federation submitted the op-ed amid media attention to these issues across the state of Florida. The op-ed, titled “Stop prescription drug abuse, but preserve access,” cites the need for all stakeholders – government agencies, patient and healthcare professionals – to come together to find solutions.
Both NACDS and the Florida Retail Association have been highly engaged on solutions-oriented approaches to address drug abuse and access.
“Chain retail pharmacies are important parts of the solutions to the challenges we are facing in Florida and are committed to partnering with state and federal agencies, law enforcement and health care professionals to find workable solutions to this complex problem,” McAllister and Anderson wrote.
The complete op-ed follows:
If there were an easy way to end prescription drug abuse while ensuring that patients maintain legitimate access to these medications, we suspect it would have been implemented a long time ago.
The fact is that pain medication abuse, access and addiction are complex issues that are not easily addressed. The problems are even more difficult to solve at the same time and in a concerted manner: equally fighting abuse, while helping patients ease their pain.
The situation in Florida has the potential to inspire the comprehensive and necessary approach that has, thus far, eluded our nation.
Four years ago, Florida was known as the unofficial pill mill capital of the country – that is, if you wanted pain medications prescribed with the minimum possible scrutiny, Florida was the place to be. With a concerted effort among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as new and more stringent legislation, many of those pill mills were closed, reducing drug abuse cases and deaths significantly.
In the 2015 Florida Legislative Session, Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto successfully sponsored SB 450, which renewed Florida’s commitment to keeping these pill mills at bay. Shutting down these illegal clinics was a win for the state in ensuring healthier and safer communities.
However, these actions in Florida did not occur in a vacuum. At the same time, at the federal level, the imposition of stricter rules on certain pain medications, known as hydrocodone combination products, has made it more difficult for patients to fill legitimate prescriptions.
While the headlines used to focus on the problem of too many pain medication prescriptions being filled, today the headlines focus on allegations of too few.
From the perspective of the pharmacy, the goal remains the same: act on a 100-percent commitment to patient care, and a zero-tolerance for drug abuse. The fact is that pharmacies have long served as working partners to prevent the misuse of prescription pain medications. And though pharmacies are not allowed to discuss specific patient cases due to privacy laws, pharmacists have very good legal reasons for declining to fill some prescriptions, based on federal regulations.
Though it is not widely known, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulations indicate that pharmacists have a “corresponding responsibility” – separate and in addition to the responsibility of physicians – to assure that a prescription is legitimate before filling it.
One tool that pharmacists – and physicians – have at their disposal is the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). This program is designed to help pharmacists and physicians identify and deter drug abuse. The program collects, monitors and analyzes electronically transmitted prescription data on controlled substances that have been dispensed by pharmacies and dispensing practitioners. We believe that this proactive program is an important resource for prescribers and pharmacists to use in safeguarding public health and safety while supporting the legitimate use of controlled substances.
As we look to a solution to the overarching problem, it’s quite clear that both abuse and access must be addressed simultaneously – and there is bipartisan federal legislation that would do just that.
The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2015 (H.R. 471 and S. 482) – which has passed the U.S. House of Representatives, and is pending in the U.S. Senate – would establish a cooperative framework between government agencies, patients, and providers. Florida lawmakers Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Gus Bilirakis are cosponsors of the bills, and Rep. David Jolly has expressed his support during House debate on the bill.
Specifically, the bill would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to work jointly with the Office of National Drug Control Policy and DEA to assess obstacles to legitimate patient access to controlled substances, and to identify how collaboration between agencies and stakeholders can benefit patients and prevent diversion and abuse of prescription drugs.
The House passage of the bill brings a solution one step closer in helping the millions of Americans impacted by prescription drug abuse, addiction and face challenges accessing much-needed medications.
This more comprehensive approach is the only option that has a chance of solving this pressing issue. Solutions targeted at enforcement but not patient care, or patient care but not enforcement, have a chance of making progress on their objective. But they also have a risk – even the likelihood – of making worse other aspects of the problem.
Chain retail pharmacies are important parts of the solutions to the challenges we are facing in Florida, and are committed to partnering with state and federal agencies, law enforcement and healthcare professionals to find workable solutions to this complex problem.