Convening Healthcare Stakeholders to Address the Opioid Epidemic

Last week, Allied Against Opioid Abuse (AAOA) partners, the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and the PA Foundation, joined the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) at the Distribution Management Conference and Expo (DMC) for a discussion about how we are working together to educate and raise awareness about the rights, risks and responsibilities associated with prescription opioids.

HDA founded AAOA as an educational initiative to help prevent the abuse and misuse of prescription opioids. The goal of AAOA was, and still is, to contribute to solving the opioid abuse epidemic in a meaningful way by serving as a centralized information resource and working with partners across healthcare and public health to raise awareness about prescription opioid safety.

In its first year, AAOA has made great strides through the development of new tools and resources as well as national programs to engage specific audiences, such as PA students and community pharmacists.

At this year’s DMC, I was joined by NCPA’s Vice President of Pharmacy Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Ronna Hauser, and the PA Foundation’s Executive Director, Lynette Sappe-Watkins, to share lessons learned and actionable steps others can take to help combat the opioid abuse epidemic.

During the panel discussion, Ms. Hauser of NCPA shared how pharmacists across the country are making a difference in their communities through patient interactions as well as more systemic efforts like disposal programs. The pharmacy toolkit that AAOA developed in partnership with NCPA and the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA) is helping pharmacists engage their patients, and educate them about the safe use, storage and disposal of prescription opioids.

Ms. Sappe-Watkins of the PA Foundation discussed how physician assistant students have embraced AAOA’s Pledge to Pause campaign, with thousands of PAs pledging to take time to talk to patients and caregivers about available treatment options, the risks associated with prescription opioids and their responsibility to safely store and appropriately dispose of leftover medications before prescribing pain medicines. PA student leaders have not only taken the pledge themselves but are encouraging their peers on campus to do the same. Pledge to Pause has grown from a conference activation to a grassroots push among engaged and active PA students.

These two programs build on AAOA’s mission of bringing together diverse stakeholders across the healthcare community to address the prescription opioid epidemic through education. We would not have been able to make this kind of an impact without our partners’ strategic input, subject matter expertise and strong network. Their ideas have helped to shape AAOA and we have all benefited from this collaboration.

We look forward to continuing to build on this valuable foundation in AAOA’s second year. Together, we can make a difference in helping prevent prescription opioid abuse and misuse.

For more information on AAOA’s progress in its first year, read our “Year in Review” report. To stay up to date on AAOA’s activities, subscribe to our mailing list and follow us on Twitter at @AAOA_Tweets.