Pharmacists See Risk in Opioid Use Drugs, by Deborah Agus | Chroniclers

Deborah Agus Tribune News Service

Imagine not being able to get the drugs you desperately need and need to take from your pharmacy. Imagine if there was no insulin available for several days in a row, week after week; or no medicine to treat your high blood pressure.

Now imagine being unable to get your medication on time to avoid an extremely painful and dangerous withdrawal because you have an opioid use disorder. This is the situation faced by patients who rely on daily medication for good health. Known as MAT, for Medication-Assisted Treatment, the drug is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone that blocks the effects of opioids and decreases physical dependence on them.

Our agency, the Behavioral Health Leadership Institute, operates a treatment program for people with opioid use disorders. Patients call us from their pharmacy when they are denied their life-saving medication, scared and anxious, asking what they can do. Our staff are overwhelmed and the situation is getting worse. Every day, prescriptions are not filled, putting our patients at risk of death. As of the week of this writing, six of our partner pharmacies in Baltimore have not reported any medications available – branded or generic – for our patients.

They are vulnerable. Many are homeless and suffer from health problems. Some are fragile and / or old. They often lack means of transport. To pick up drugs to prevent withdrawal, many of our patients have to walk, some may use a cane, to reach a pharmacy that is a mile or more away. And, at the same time, they begin to experience the first symptoms of withdrawal, which causes unbearable discomfort, pain and nausea. And they still need to find a place to sleep for the night.

Martin E. Berry