Jackson, OH 8/28/15 – Local pharmacists are calling on their colleagues to stand as the first line of defense against the production of methamphetamine and the abuse of prescription drugs in general.
During a roundtable event hosted by U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson (R-OH 6th District) Thursday, August 27, pharmacists and representatives from the pharmacies of CVS, Kroger, Walgreen’s, and Fruth gathered to discuss possible options in the on-going fight against meth and narcotics abuse. The event was held at the Jackson County Economic Development Office on Veterans Drive in Jackson.
President and Chair of the Board for Fruth Pharmacy, Lynne Fruth, stated one option that has proved to be effective in combating methamphetamine production in West Virginia is removing single-ingredient pseudoephedrine from the shelves of pharmacies. Pseudoephedrine is vital in the manufacture of meth and is found in cold and allergy medications such as Sudafed and Claritin-D. Fruth further mentioned the possibility of replacing these types of medications with a tamper-resistant alternative, thus taking away the possibility of using them for illegal purposes.
“We’re never going to completely make the meth go away,” said Fruth. “But, what we can do is eliminate the cooking of the meth and all of the dangers associated with that.”
Fruth explained such a move will require responsible businesses making good choices. She also said this type of action is one the public is already in favor of.
Said Fruth, “The public came out strongly and said we will pay a little bit more for a tamper-resistant product and we support you removing that product that is driving and fueling the meth.”
Aside from the support expressed by the public, Fruth also mentioned the safety and well-being of area pharmacy employees who are the ones dealing directly with these types of individuals. She explained should a customer be offered a tamper-resistant alternative to pseudoephedrine and decline the purchase, it would stand to reason that person was seeking the drug to use it illegally.
Congressman Johnson stated these types of problems with drug abuse are present across the county.
“This is a nation-wide issue, not just a local issue,” said Johnson.
Johnson asked those present if there are ways to improve the communication and relationship between physicians and pharmacists. Jarred Sigmon of CVS Pharmacy stated “responsible prescribing” is a key issue when dealing with prescription medication abuse. Sigmon explained he would like to see a diagnosis on prescriptions for narcotics from prescribers in order to help the pharmacist better make a determination on whether or not these types of medications are necessary for treatment in a particular patient.
An example given by Sigmon was in instance where an individual was written prescriptions for numerous heavy-duty narcotics. When the prescribing physician was asked what this patient’s diagnosis was, the answer given was “back pain.” Sigmon explained these particular types of medications, which included Fentanyl and 30-milligram Oxycodone, are typically used for patients receiving “end-of-life care” or cancer treatments.
“In the end, you have to go off of what the prescriber is telling you and make a decision,” Sigmon explained.
Congressman Johnson then made a reference to using a “red card” in soccer, and asked if such a thing exists for a physician, insinuating whether or not there are ways to hold a prescriber accountable for a serious offense with regard to pharmacies. Sigmon stated if a situation arises where a physician is suspected of writing unwarranted narcotic prescriptions, CVS employees can send that physician’s name to higher-ups for further investigation. Additionally, Sigmon said prescribers can even be blocked from using CVS Pharmacy.
Another issue, addressed by Fruth, was that of physicians coming under a lot of scrutiny and not wanting to prescribe pain medications. She explained this is now leaving “legitimate patients” with limited treatment options.
When the meeting drew to a close, Congressman Johnson encouraged all participants to keep communication open, stating this issue is not going away overnight.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Said Johnson. “Obviously, it’s going to take a community effort of everybody involved. Law enforcement, pharmacists, providers, families; it’s going to take all of us to wrestle this one down.”