Working with Wisconsin Pharmacists to Combat the Opioid Epidemic

Allied Against Opioid Abuse (AAOA) recently interviewed the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin’s (PSW) Erica Martin, Senior Manager of Practice and Population Health Initiatives; and Megan Grant, Senior Manager of Marketing, Communications, and Design, to discuss how the organization is collaborating with pharmacists and partners statewide to improve patient care and address the opioid epidemic.  

The PSW is the state’s professional organization representing pharmacists and pharmacy practices. PSW believes that working together can inspire professional success with the singular purpose of enhancing the lives of patients.

AAOA: How is your organization engaged in helping to address the opioid epidemic in Wisconsin?

PSW: PSW has been a key collaborator on the statewide “standing order” for naloxone, a lifesaving medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. The standing order allows pharmacists in Wisconsin to dispense naloxone to anyone at risk, as well as their family, friends, and anyone who may witness an overdose. PSW also provides opioid-related education and resources to pharmacists, student pharmacists and technicians related to opioid stewardship through PSW conferences and online resources. 

AAOA: What role do pharmacists and pharmacy staff play in educating patients and caregivers about their rights, risks and responsibilities associated with prescription opioids? 

PSW: Pharmacists are a patient’s most accessible healthcare professional and are able to counsel patients about safe opioid use, storage and disposal. The AAOA Pharmacy Toolkit is a great resource to assist the pharmacists in facilitating conversations with patients and caregivers. 

AAOA: How do pharmacists work with prescribers when it comes to prescription opioids?

PSW: As members of a patient’s healthcare team, pharmacists and prescribers work together to encourage safe opioid use. For example, PSW has been working with pharmacists and providers to increase the co-prescribing of naloxone. 

AAOA: AAOA released the Pharmacy Toolkit last year and has been working with you to promote it among pharmacists across Wisconsin. Why is it important that we provide these resources to pharmacies?

PSW: It was a pleasure to have John Parker of AAOA speak to PSW members about the AAOA Pharmacy Toolkit at our annual conference. Resources like the toolkit are important to shepherding conversations between patients and pharmacists about safe opioid use, storage and disposal.

AAOA: What is PSW doing outside of its work with AAOA to combat the opioid epidemic? 

PSW: PSW is working closely with pharmacists who have received training in academic detailing. These pharmacists will complete academic detailing conversations on naloxone with their peers. Further, faculty at the Wisconsin schools of pharmacy are also training students to have these academic detailing conversations with their preceptors. The goal is to increase evidence-based knowledge of naloxone throughout Wisconsin, which in turn will increase naloxone dispensing through the statewide standing order.

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? 

PSW: The AAOA “Tips for the Safe Use, Storage and Disposal of Prescription Opioids” is a great tool to begin a conversation with your pharmacist about your prescriptions.

Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.