College of Pharmacy Addresses Opioid Epidemic

October 06, 2016

The current opioid epidemic is a complex problem. The state of Iowa is no exception to this epidemic as overdose deaths are quickly on the rise. There is a steady increase of abuse and misuse of prescription opioids as well as heroin and injection drug use. 

In response to this, the College of Pharmacy in collaboration with other health sciences colleges is working to better prepare students to assist patients with opioid abuse disorders. 

For example, College of Pharmacy students from the University of Iowa Pharmacy Recovery Network (UI-PRN) recently collaborated with students from the Colleges of Medicine and Dentistry to organize a week-long Opioid Overdose Prevention Summit Sept. 26-30. The interprofessional event educated students on how to help address the state and national opioid epidemic as future clinicians. Students learned about the signs and symptoms of an overdose, proper naloxone administration, overdose prevention and treatment, and overdose prevention policy and harm reduction advocacy.

UI-PRN member and PharmD student Kiley Boeding helped to organize a session during the summit on Overdose Prevention: Policy and Advocacy. The session included speakers from Quad Cities Harm Reduction, State Representative Ako Adbul Samad, and the Iowa Medical Society’s Director of Government Affairs, Dennis Tibben. They discussed how opioid abuse and overdose had touched their lives, advocated for greater availability of Naloxone, an opioid antagonist that temporarily reverses the overdose effects of opioids, and explained other overdose prevention initiatives.

The summit resulted in several Calls to Action for the public and legislators, including one (Call to Action #7) spearheaded by UI-PRN members and PharmD students Alecia Rottinghaus and Mackenzie Walsh. Specifically, the petition calls upon the Iowa Board of Pharmacy to consider the development of an educational training version of the Iowa Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), which would allow for easier access and usage of the program. The Iowa PMP is a healthcare tool for registered prescribers and pharmacists which can be used to verify patients’ usage of controlled medications, allowing for enhanced patient safety and quality of care through the identification of potential diversion, misuse, or abuse of controlled substances.

Rottinghaus spoke to the importance of an educational training version of the Iowa PMP, "As students, it is important for us to be exposed to tools that we will have access to once in the health care field. An educational training based version of the Iowa Prescription Monitoring Program would allow for students to view the program in a learning environment, putting more emphasis on the safety and quality of care of our patients. The Iowa PMP is something we want students and providers to be more familiar with so that we can have increased utilization of this important health care tool."

To sign the petition or learn more about the summit, please visit the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition website.

In addition to participating in the summit, the College of Pharmacy has integrated opioid training into its curriculum. Last week, second-year PharmD students participated in a lab utilizing standardized patients to simulate real situations pharmacists may be faced within the community dealing with opioid misuse, abuse, and addiction.