Pharmacy Technicians: On the Front Line of Patient Care and Engagement

Pharmacy technicians are vital members of the pharmacy community. They work alongside pharmacists to help serve patients and keep operations running smoothly. In recognition of their work, the pharmacy community celebrates Pharmacy Technician Day on October 15 every year. 

To learn more about pharmacy technicians and the important role they play related to the opioid abuse crisis, AAOA interviewed Liza Chapman, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board’s Vice President of Partnership Development. 

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) was founded in 1995 and is the nation’s first and most trusted pharmacy technician credentialing organization. Formed by a collaboration of pharmacy societies and associations, PTCB is the only non-profit pharmacy technician credentialing organization in the US. Its mission is to advance medication safety by credentialing technicians who are qualified to support pharmacists and patient care teams in all practice settings. 


AAOA: How is PTCB engaged in helping to address the opioid epidemic?

Liza Chapman: Pharmacy technicians are vital to pharmacy, and their training and credentialing are important components in advancing patient safety and improving health outcomes. 

PTCB is launching five Assessment-Based Certificate Programs in advanced areas during 2019 and 2020, and we are creating a pathway for Certified Pharmacy Technicians (CPhTs) to earn an Advanced CPhT (CPhT-Adv) Certification. 

As part of this, a certificate program in Controlled Substance Diversion Prevention will be released next year. Many pharmacy technicians work in advanced areas where they are responsible for controlled substance inventories and collaborate with organization leadership to prevent diversion. Supporting the implementation of workplace controls to prevent diversion is just one of many ways technicians can play an essential role in addressing the opioid epidemic. 

The other programs focus on Technician Product Verification (TPV), Medication History, Hazardous Drug Management and Billing and Reimbursement. 


AAOA: Why did PTCB decide to join the Allied Against Opioid Abuse (AAOA) coalition and campaign?

Liza Chapman: PTCB’s decision to join AAOA was an easy one. Our staff attended the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Association’s spring meeting, and we were inspired by AAOA’s critically important mission. PTCB serves more than 285,000 CPhTs who are actively working in community and health-system settings throughout the country. We know that pharmacy technicians will benefit from AAOA resources. All technicians are affected by the opioid epidemic and many are on the frontlines in their workplaces. As a national partner of AAOA, PTCB looks forward to working together to bring more of the pharmacy technician community into the fold to beat the opioid epidemic.


AAOA: We just celebrated Pharmacy Technician Day on the third Tuesday in October, an annual recognition of the essential work of technicians. What role do pharmacy technicians play in educating patients and caregivers about their rights, risks, and responsibilities associated with prescription opioids?

Liza Chapman: I am glad you asked! From our conversations with pharmacy stakeholders, we know the profession seeks to enable pharmacists to be more involved in direct patient care. This presents an opportunity to advance pharmacy technicians to help achieve this goal. A number of states are taking action to allow technicians to do more. Roles for some technicians are expanding to include naloxone training and administration. In addition, technicians can often identify syringe needle purchasers, co-prescriptions of benzodiazepines and opioids, and high-dose opioid usage (> 50 MME/ day), any of which may signal a need to facilitate patient education from the pharmacist on naloxone usage. Technicians can also join with pharmacists to protect public health by promoting tools for patients and caregivers to make them aware of potentially lifesaving actions and precautions they can take.


AAOA: What are the gaps in knowledge for patients when it comes to safe storage and disposal of prescription opioids? What questions should patients ask when they pick up their prescription opioids?

Liza Chapman: I believe the gap comes when patients treat prescription opioids as they do other medications, like antibiotics or over-the-counter products, and do not realize the dangers until things go awry. The options for disposing of prescription opioids need to be widely available to prevent storage in the home and opportunities for diversion. AAOA messages can be shared more often.


AAOA: AAOA released the Pharmacy Toolkit last year and  works with PTCB and other AAOA partners to promote it in pharmacies across the country. Why is it important that we provide these resources to pharmacy technicians and pharmacists?

Liza Chapman: Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are on the front lines battling the opioid epidemic every day. Providing useful resources is one way to equip pharmacy teams with the tools necessary to address the crisis effectively. The toolkit contains clear and concise materials for pharmacists and technicians to share with patients and healthcare providers.

 


AAOA: What other resources would you recommend to patients and caregivers who want to learn more about making a difference in curbing the opioid crisis? 

Liza Chapman: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a 24-hour Behavioral Health Treatment Service Locator for finding facilities in every area. They also have a 24-7 National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP) and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides information on initiatives, resources and actions being taken on a national scale. State health departments and local centers found on the SAMHSA website at samhsa.gov can offer additional resources. 

Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.