Arlington, Va. – The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) is welcoming as a step in the right direction today’s White House announcement of an interagency effort to confront opioid abuse.
This is a step in the right direction toward what everyone realizes will require long-term and broad-based collaboration.
The longest-serving member of President Obama’s cabinet – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – will lead the effort. Since 2011, Vilsack has chaired the White House Rural Council, which includes ongoing participation of 29 federal entities, including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, among others. According to a report in today’s Washington Post, Vilsack’s cross-departmental work on rural issues led to the decision to use this model as a way to address problems including drug abuse and broader health and wellness concerns, among others.
“NACDS welcomes this inter-agency approach to drug abuse and diversion. This is a step in the right direction toward what everyone realizes will require long-term and broad-based collaboration,” said NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE.
“Today’s announcement is consistent with the spirit of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act (H.R. 471 and S. 483), which would bring the health and enforcement communities together to address drug abuse prevention and legitimate medication access simultaneously. That legislation, which passed the House in 2015, needs to be enacted and needs to be incorporated into the collaborative and comprehensive effort discussed today.”
In an opinion study commissioned by NACDS this summer, likely voters who are engaged and aware in current events indicated through their responses an appreciation for the need to address drug abuse and drug access in a complementary manner.
Nearly 8-in-10 respondents agreed with the statement: “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.”
In addition, when considering whether new approaches are needed on these issues, 32 percent of the respondents believed there should be more emphasis on cracking down on the abuse of prescription pain medication. Forty-nine percent of respondents thought more focus should be on ensuring that the patients who legitimately need prescription pain medications are still able to access them when they need them, and 19 percent feel the nation has reached a reasonable balance when it comes to this issue.
“NACDS will continue to engage with diverse partners to address the highly complex issues of addiction, abuse and medication access in rural and urban communities alike, and to achieve the vision that we refer to as a 100-percent commitment to patient care and a zero-tolerance for abuse and diversion,” Anderson said.
NACDS also expressed its interest in presenting pharmacy-based solutions to other challenges facing rural America – such as healthcare access and wellness – that also fall under Secretary Vilsack’s new inter-departmental approach.
“When the conversation turns to health and wellness, we encourage Secretary Vilsack to observe the solutions that can be achieved through legislation including the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 592 and S. 314) – which would improve access to pharmacist-provided services in underserved areas, rural and urban alike,” Anderson said.