Scholars Research & Travel Fund Blog Post: Cindy Wu

I presented at American Pharmacists Association's Annual Conference in Seattle, WA this past weekend on March 23rd. My research was on naloxone availability in MA community pharmacies. As the opioid epidemic is becoming more prevalent each and every day in MA and across states in the US, it was important to present on interventions that pharmacists are making to reduce the number of opioid overdose deaths. One of the most widespread interventions was the initiation of a statewide standing order on naloxone in MA, which allowed pharmacists to prescribe naloxone to patients without an outside prescription from a provider. My work was well received from pharmacists, and they were interested to learn that while the standing order has increased the stock of naloxone in community pharmacies, other barriers remain, one of which includes the presentation of an ID during naloxone pick up at the pharmacy counter. In addition, out of pocket costs of naloxone remain high, as average costs are about $130 without insurance. Thus, pharmacists encouraged me to use this research to inform the Board of Pharmacy in MA about current naloxone barriers in hopes of enacting new changes that can further increase the accessibility of naloxone for patients and family members.

One poster I observed that was related to my research was a study conducted in Colorado that analyzed the rise in naloxone prescriptions written by pharmacists as a result of a similar naloxone standing order that was placed in Colorado a few years ago. I was fascinated by the results, as the increase in naloxone prescriptions correlated to the enactment of the statewide standing order, and this research demonstrated another way that pharmacists are positively impacting the opioid epidemic.

As a result of this experience, I was able to discuss with other researchers and pharmacists ways that our profession can make a difference on current health issues on a statewide and national level. I learned as a researcher that there are many ways to approach an issue; thus, there are many interventions pharmacists can initiate to improve patients' lives. My next steps in my capstone project are to create a heat map that looks at where the greatest availability of naloxone is in Massachusetts as well as run a program that analyzes the average distance a patient would have to travel in order to find the nearest pharmacy that has naloxone in stock. From this conference, I want to become more involved in current legislation that works to increase access of medications for patients.