Prime Therapeutics’ Dr. Gleason discusses opioid epidemic on Minnesota Public Radio

Recent survey says 75% of people who are prescribed opioids weren’t told by medical professionals about the potential for addiction.

According to Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) host Kerri Miller, the role of physicians and pharmacists in the national opioid epidemic is not often discussed.

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, Patrick Gleason, PharmD, senior director of health outcomes at Prime Therapeutics (pictured right) was a guest on the MPR radio program “Flyover” with Dr. Andrew Kolodny of Phoenix House and Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP).

 Listen to the full interview (via MPR News website)

As two experts who’ve studied the issue for many years, they discussed results of a recent Prime survey that says only 1 in 4 U.S. adults prescribed opioids discussed the potential for addiction with medical professionals – which could include physicians, nurses, pharmacists or any other prescribers.

“All health care professionals have a role [in solving this crisis]” says Gleason. “With pharmacists specifically, the epidemic is so important that even when they are busy in the pharmacy, they need to take the time to talk with patients.”

His advice to listeners: “This medication can lead to dependence and addiction, you need to take as little of it as you need, but take it as directed by your physician to relieve the pain, have an expectation that you will have some pain, do not drink alcohol with this, to not take this with other sleep medications and dispose of it when you’re done.”

The experts shared this epidemic isn’t new. As a student at the University of Minnesota School of Pharmacy in the 1990s, Gleason was taught the standard national curriculum of treating pain as the fifth vital sign and that a “patient should expect no pain” and to “shoot for zero” on the pain scale.

“It is an unrealistic expectation of no pain. We need to have the expectation that there will be some pain such as with a major surgery. There needs to be conversations and closer monitoring of patients on opioids — following up in days, not weeks, of giving a prescription. The quantities that are dispensed need to be very small, and in short supply so that an individual has to reassess along with their prescriber whether the therapy is still needed,” added Gleason.

But if controlled substances of any kind – including opioids – are prescribed, and there are leftovers, it is imperative that they get disposed. Prime’s survey also found that most Americans aren’t properly disposing of their unused opioids. “We need to get the opioids, and any leftover medication out of your cabinets and out of your bathrooms and into disposal sites,” said Gleason. “Prime Therapeutics and Walgreens are working together to get more disposal containers in pharmacies.”

More education is clearly needed in all parts of the health care system. Dr. Gleason and Dr. Kolodny both helped write a recent Clinton Foundation/Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report which developed 49 recommendations to curb this epidemic including the expansion of take back programs and avoiding stigmatizing addiction. This report can serve as a resource to those helping to solve the public health emergency.

About Prime Therapeutics

Prime Therapeutics LLC (Prime) helps people get the medicine they need to feel better and live well. Prime manages pharmacy benefits for health plans, employers, and government programs including Medicare and Medicaid. The company processes claims and offers clinical services for people with complex medical conditions. Prime serves more than 20 million people. It is collectively owned by 18 Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans, subsidiaries or affiliates of those plans.

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