Sentry is celebrating American Pharmacists Month this October along with the American Pharmacists Association. In honor of all that pharmacists do at Sentry and for the public overall, we spoke with Lisa Scholz, PharmD, our Head of Industry Relations, about the evolving role of pharmacists in the community and what most people might not realize about the ways their pharmacist can help them.
1. Pharmacists are on the front lines of the opioid crisis
According to the CDC, about 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. From 1999 to 2017, more than 700,000 people died from a drug overdose. Around 68% of those deaths involved an opioid.
There are several important programs that pharmacists are directly involved with to help combat this problem.
The first is drug take-back programs, whereby patients can return unused prescription opioids to a pharmacy for safe disposal. In September 2014, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced its final rule on prescription drug disposal, “which grants pharmacies the authority to collect and properly dispose of unwanted prescriptions from patients,” according to the American Pharmacists Association (APhA).
Now, such medication return programs are available at many major pharmacy chains as well as independently owned pharmacies across the country.
The second way pharmacists are helping to combat the opioid crisis is through the distribution of naloxone (brand names: Narcan or Evizo), a medication designed to rapidly reduce opioid overdose.
Naloxone can be administered three ways – via injection that must be administered by paramedics or other trained medical professionals; prefilled auto-injection (brand name Evizo), which can be administered by friends or family members as well as emergency personnel; and nasal spray (brand name Narcan) that anyone can administer.
Some states require a prescription for naloxone, but many do not. Your pharmacist can let you know the laws in your state.
2. Pharmacists staff poison control center hotlines nationwide
If you have small children, having the phone number to a poison control hotline nearby is a must, and you may be familiar with the now nationally recognized poison prevention symbol, Mr. Yuk™.
“The iconic symbol Mr. Yuk™ was created by the Pittsburgh Poison Center and was the first recognized poison prevention/poison center awareness symbol in the U.S.,” according to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “Mr. Yuk™ has raised the awareness that poison centers are available 24 hours-a-day, every day of the year to assist in the management of poisoning emergencies and to provide poison information.”
Every Mr. Yuk™ sticker contains the name of the nearest poison center and the national toll-free “Poison Help” telephone number: 1-800-222-1222. Regardless of your location in the U.S. or its territories, dialing that number will direct your call to the nearest regional poison center.
What many people don’t realize, however, is that the person who answers when you call the toll-free number or your regional poison center is probably a pharmacist. The pharmacist will listen to your concern and provide step-by-step instructions on what to do, depending on your circumstance.
3. Pharmacists can administer vaccines
It’s that time of year again: flu season is upon us.
The good news is, all you need to do to get your flu shot is walk into your nearest pharmacy. While most people know that pharmacies with on-site health clinics can administer flu shots, it is less well-known that all pharmacists are trained and qualified to administer vaccines, and you can receive them at almost all pharmacies – even those without health clinics. Additionally, pharmacists in most cases can administer several different vaccines, not just influenza, according to the APhA.
Pharmacists can also help patients access birth control – without a prescription – and partner with providers to help manage diabetes, blood pressure and other chronic diseases in between doctor visits. Pharmacists are one of the most easily accessible medical professionals in most communities and, in partnership with physicians, can be a valuable resource in a wide range of situations.
Sentry extends its heartfelt appreciation for the pharmacists both at our organization and in our communities for the work they do every day. They are truly on the front lines of care.