Part of the solution: NACDS’ opioid abuse-prevention work
NACDS members are meeting at the 2019 NACDS Annual Meeting amid rapid change. Throughout the event, NACDS will update the industry on public policy priorities. These issues have a profound impact on the operating environment in which members are conducting business and serving consumers.
Many of our policy discussions will focus on direct and indirect remuneration, or DIR, fee relief; addressing immediate and long-term pharmacy reimbursement issues; enhancing pharmacy’s scope of business; and serving as part of the opioid-abuse solution. Because NACDS hears from senior leaders of chains and suppliers that they are interested in the association’s opioid abuse-prevention work — as part of a larger community engagement platform — I am dedicating this space to an update on this issue.
NACDS’ opioid abuse-prevention work reflects chains’ ongoing commitments in the areas of compliance programs; drug disposal; patient education; security initiatives; fostering naloxone access; helping to stop illegal online drug sellers and rogue clinics; philanthropic programs; and more. It also reflects extensive work on the part of NACDS associate members.
NACDS’ ongoing engagement in federal and state policymaking reveals the complexities associated with the opioid abuse epidemic. NACDS and our state partners continue to advance sound policies that approach a comprehensive solution, and we also are working to prevent misguided policies. All of this is occurring amid a national discussion of opioid-related issues that continues to evolve, along with the understanding and perspective of policymakers, thought leaders and citizens.
One thing remains clear: NACDS remains focused on advancing the public policy recommendations that we established, based on pharmacists’ firsthand experiences on the front lines of health care and on collaboration with health and enforcement agencies. As I write this, 18 states have enacted NACDS-supported electronic prescribing legislation to help prevent fraud and abuse. Legislation continues to advance in other states as well. These results build on the momentum of federal electronic prescribing legislation enacted in 2018. At the federal level, legislation (S. 724/H.R. 1614) now has been reintroduced to limit to seven days a patient’s first opioid prescription prescribed for temporary pain. NACDS also remains focused on advancing our recommendations regarding prescription drug monitoring plans.
Also of vital importance, NACDS works to prevent harmful policies that, in the name of opioid abuse prevention, would do harm to patients, to pharmacies and to communities. NACDS is collaborating with our state association partners to confront proposed “opioid taxes,” which are taxes on patients, pharmacies, hospitals and others. In addition, we are battling mandatory drug take-back proposals as well, even while noting the importance — and pharmacy’s commitment to — effective and flexible drug-disposal solutions.
Throughout NACDS’ work on all of these issues, a trend is becoming apparent: More and more government leaders, reporters and citizens are starting to key into the notion that illegally manufactured and trafficked fentanyl and heroin comprise a significant part of the drug-abuse epidemic. NACDS is contributing to this discussion and helping to advance such solutions as the enhanced availability of overdose antidotes. The results of the national Morning Consult survey that NACDS commissioned in January suggested that the public understands the different forms of drug addiction that exist. When asked if legal prescriptions or illegally trafficked fentanyl is a bigger contributor to the opioid epidemic, one-third identified illegally tracked fentanyl; 40% said both; 10% said legal prescriptions; and 16% did not express an opinion. The media are dedicating increasing coverage to the notion that illegal fentanyl presents a significant portion of the challenges.
NACDS’ work is entirely consistent with pharmacies’ commitment to serve as the face of neighborhood health care, and to the context of members’ discussions at the 2019 NACDS Annual Meeting.
Steve Anderson is president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.