Pharmacists and opioid use disorder care during COVID-19: Call for action.

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Journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy : JACCP


Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a chronic relapsing condition characterized by problematic opioid use causing significant impairment in daily life. Medication for opioid use disorder using buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone with behavioral therapy reduces illicit opioid use and risk of overdose death. Despite evidence and decades of experience, barriers limit access to treatment and care for individuals with OUD. Barriers include a lack of treatment centers particularly in rural areas, regulations on buprenorphine prescribing, and stigma from the community and health care professionals. While many barriers are longstanding, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic-forced isolation and associated stress has exacerbated challenges for individuals with mental health conditions such as OUD. Pharmacists are well-positioned to bridge existing gaps in OUD care, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Roles for pharmacists include OUD risk identification and screening, referral of patients to treatment and support programs, ensuring medication access, expanding naloxone access, and advocacy initiatives. This review article identifies barriers to care for patients with OUD during the COVID-19 pandemic and explores opportunities and resources for pharmacists to improve OUD care during the pandemic and beyond.





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