Pharmacists should use medicine use reviews to help spot patients with opioid addiction, Royal Pharmaceutical Society treasurer Sid Dajani has said.
Nearly one in 10 people believe they could have been addicted to opioid painkillers at some point, treatment manufacturer Indivior said last week (September 22), on the basis of a survey of almost 1,500 UK adults conducted on its behalf earlier this month.
Contractor Mr Dajani told C+D that the results are unsurprising, and the “real shocker is nothing has been done about it”. Pharmacists should be “more proactive” in identifying these patients during medicine use reviews (MURs) and talking to them “very privately” in the consultation room, he stressed.
Pharmacists should go beyond “simply saying you’ve had too many”, and they should direct patients to seek treatment for their addiction, Mr Dajani said.
“Co-codamol or codeine linctus can affect judgement, memory and behaviour. Once you take [patients] to one side and discuss the dangers [to their] mental state, they tend to want to get help,” he said.
Mr Dajani said regular requests for strong opioids trigger a “red card” in his pharmacies, which means a pharmacist is required to dispense the product. “We do this because a person may need referal to counselling or a GP,” he said.
All pharmacies should use a similar checking system, he added.
Taking opioids for more than five years
Indivior said that of the 137 adults surveyed who believed they could have been addicted at some point, a quarter had taken opioid painkillers for more than five years.
While two thirds of those with past or current addiction concerns recognised that treatment is available, 14% said they did not know where to access help and 12% said they were “too ashamed to admit their addiction”, it said.
Only 6% of those surveyed rated opioids as having “the most serious effect on society and healthcare systems”, compared to 58% who applied this statement to illegal drugs, the manufacturer said.
These figures showed the “under-recognised danger” of prescription opioids, which government statistics showed to be linked to more deaths than illicit substances last year, Indivior added.