Imagine going to your local pharmacy to fill a script for insulin and hearing that it is not in stock. When you inquire if it can be ordered, you are told that it is on backorder or that the pharmacy cannot take any new insulin patients. How absurd does that sound? It would probably end up being the biggest news headline of the day.
But replace “insulin” with “buprenorphine” (also known as Suboxone, Subutex and Zubsolv) and all of a sudden it becomes acceptable…
Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with over 60% of those overdose deaths involving an opioid. Many studies have shown that medication-assisted treatment with buprenorphine is associated with better recovery over the long term.
Although there has been a dramatic increase in awareness surrounding opioid addiction, patients seeking medication-assisted treatment are still victims of the overwhelming stigma associated with the condition.
The idea that opioid-use disorder (OUD) is fundamentally different from other illnesses has shaped the way in which the condition is treated. Some patients are being denied access to these life sustaining medications at a pharmacy level.
The issue is not always due to the stigma associated with OUD. It could be due to inventory restrictions placed on the pharmacy by a wholesaler or due to backorders by the manufacturer. Regardless of the reason, many prospective patients have turned to the illicit market, where buprenorphine can be obtained via diversion, or from patients who sell or give away their own prescriptions.
How We Help
Having worked with hundreds of vulnerable, homeless, and drug and alcohol dependent patients, Pharmacy Wellness Group has seen first hand the significant gap in healthcare that affects the quality of care for this group of patients compared to others. Inequalities in appropriate, streamlined access to buprenorphine prescription access mean that the healthcare system inadequately provides for a portion of the nation’s population while undermining those that suffer from certain disorders.
At Pharmacy Wellness Group, we created a customized medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program to address these gaps in care. We realized that despite expanded health insurance coverage, and substantial increase in waivered physicians, patients suffering from opioid-use disorder still faced significant barriers in accessing buprenorphine at pharmacies. Through this program, we aim to minimize inequality and transform pharmacy care into quality for all.
We have established a partnership with Pathways to Housing PA and fill buprenorphine for their clients suffering from OUD.
Along with our sponsor Shop and Carry Pharmacy, we have partnered with the University of the Sciences and the University of Pittsburgh for a study to enhance the public health role of Pharmacists in the midst of our Opioid crisis. We aim to reduce risks associated with prescription opioids by increasing access to Narcan.
We believe pharmacies and pharmacists have an obligation to help improve the quality of life experienced by individuals suffering from OUD, by providing adequate and fair access to buprenorphine, just as much of a life sustaining medication as insulin.