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Responding to the “pharmageddon” as a community

Mary Mihalyo, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Duquesne University, presents at the Olde Jaol Dec. 8.

Angela Workman

Wayne County law enforcement personnel, fire departments, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians gathered at the Olde Jaol on Saturday, Dec. 8, to discuss a pressing issue within the community—abuse of prescription medications.

Mary Mihalyo, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Duquesne University, presented on the problem. Mihalyo teaches courses in palliative care, pain management and women's health care issues. Among other credentials, Mihalyo is the clinical pharmacy coordinator for Trinity Health Systems in Steubenville.

The title of the presentation was Pharmageddon, and it was appropriate, especially considering that nationwide, seven million people per month abuse opioids. Further, according to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, methadone is the culprit for nearly 33 percent of all overdose deaths in the U.S. The enormity of this problem demands feasible solutions and educated professionals.

Mihalyo talked about finding a balance when controlling the abuse. She explained that there are 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain and depend on pain medications. Reducing the risk of addiction or diversion isn't impossible, however. For example, the drugs Oxycontin and Opana can no longer be snorted by users. Mihalyo also advised monitoring usage with contracts, drug screenings, prescribing small quantities, frequent visits, pill counts and the use of a single pharmacy. More information can be found at http://www.fsmb.org/pdf/2004_grpol_Controlled_Substances.pdf.

A deep collaboration between law enforcement and pharmacies is necessary to alleviate the issue. Sheriff Tom Maurer, who arranged the presentation for the community members, said he believes there is great collaboration in Wayne County.

"I heard Mary at Duquesne University. I thought she was great so I convinced her to come to Wayne County to talk to us," Maurer said. He added that the purpose was to educate and update the workers on the newest trends and upcoming medications.

Mihalyo reminded the audience of the increase in pharmacy robberies. Additionally, there are also cases of people using real estate open houses as an opportunity to raid the medicine cabinet.

"Desperate people do desperate things," Mihalyo said.

She explained that most people don't realize how illegal it is to share prescription medications with others. Mihalyo also said that all pain medications are diverted—which is very alarming.

"I thought the presentation was well delivered. I liked the group of people that it encompassed. I think it's an issue that needs to be on the public forefront. People need to be aware of the reality of the situation. As a pharmacist, you want to provide the best care you can. You always want to give the person the benefit of the doubt. It's just nice to know that law enforcement wants to work with us—ensuring good health care, safe health care and being able to deal with the real issues at hand," said Jan Maxwell, retail pharmacy manager at Wooster Community Hospital.

Mihalyo provided the following websites for additional information: www.drugs.com, www.rxpatrol.com and http://forum.nascsa.org.

Published: December 17, 2012
New Article ID: 2012712179942