UConn to Host Pharmacist Training to Prescribe Naloxone

The UConn School of Pharmacy, in collaboration with the Connecticut Pharmacists Association and the State of Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Drug Control, is providing the State of Connecticut required training that allows pharmacists who have been trained and certified to prescribe naloxone, an opioid antagonist that blocks opiate receptors in the nervous system and can prevent death from opioid and heroin overdose. The key legislation was signed into law in July and the training, which was developed in collaboration with a number of stakeholders across the state, became available on September 1. While pharmacists have always been allowed to dispense naloxone when presented with a prescription from a prescriber, upon completion of the two-hour course, they will also be able to prescribe naloxone to patients and caregivers in Connecticut. “Pharmacists are on the front lines of our health care system, with many opportunities to interact with patients, families and caregivers,” said Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris. “To be part of the solution to the opioid epidemic we are facing in Connecticut and throughout the U.S., they must have every resource available, including the information needed to help steer people to addiction treatment. Naloxone is a life-saving drug, but the ultimate goal is not to have it used, but rather to get people into treatment and stop an overdose before it happens.”

The use and abuse of opioid medication has been growing exponentially for more than a decade, with serious effects on the population. Nationally, more than 37 percent of all drug fatalities in 2013 were opioid related. According to data from the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, 558 individuals died last year in Connecticut of an overdose caused by either heroin or prescription painkillers. That number grew from 490 in 2013 and 355 in 2012. Even with its widespread potential for abuse not all opioid overdoses are caused by intentional misuse. “Older adults taking several pain medications from different doctors can fall victim to accidental opioid overdose, as can people experimenting with drugs,” said Harris. “Pharmacists are, and should continue to be, a primary source of information for anyone taking opioids to help prevent against accidental misuse.”

Jill Fitzgerald, Pharm.D.

The new law does not permit pharmacists to issue a standing order for naloxone. The patient, a caregiver, or loved one must see the pharmacist in person to obtain a prescription and receive their naloxone. The prescription will also include complete instructions on its use, as well as best practices on how to handle an overdose situation, along with referral information and resources about local substance abuse treatment, if desired. Jill Fitzgerald, Pharm.D., an associate clinical professor of pharmacy practice at the UConn School of Pharmacy, worked with the Connecticut Pharmacists Association on a task force to develop the training content and provide the format for delivering the education. “UConn has been offering professional development programs and continuing education activities for Connecticut pharmacists for decades,” said Fitzgerald. “All pharmacists have an obligation to educate themselves on the issues in our State which affect public health. This is a crisis and we must be a part of the solution.”

The naloxone certification course for pharmacists is an online program, available on the website of the UConn School of Pharmacy. The Department of Consumer Protection and the Connecticut Pharmacists Association are also posting a link to the pharmacist certification course on their websites. The course was developed collaboratively by: the UConn School of Pharmacy; the Apt Foundation; Beacon Pharmacy, in Bristol; the Connecticut Commission of Pharmacy; the Connecticut departments of Consumer Protection and Mental Health Addiction Services; the Connecticut Medical Society, the Connecticut Pharmacists Association; the University of St. Joseph School of Pharmacy; and Yale New Haven Hospital.