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Cindy Gutierrez, PharmD, BCPP, Associate Chief, Clinical Pharmacy Programs, South Texas Veterans Health Care System, CPNP Programming Chair, 2018

The misuse and addiction to opioids is a serious national health problem affecting public health, as well as social and economic welfare. The abuse of prescription drugs and heroin in the United States has risen to epidemic levels, resulting in unprecedented rates of drug overdose and related fatalities, with more than 60% of drug overdose deaths involving an opioid. In addition to rising death rates, the opioid crisis has resulted in other significant health consequences. The incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome in newborns of mothers misusing opioids during pregnancy is increasing. Further, the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, has increased in correlation with escalating abuse of opioids.

Strategies currently being employed to address the opioid epidemic and its sequelae focus on the prevention of misuse, addressing the underlying issues of addiction, and increasing access to the reversal agent naloxone. Longer-term approaches include the development of pain medications with decreased abuse and/or addiction potential. This keynote address will discuss the current state of opioid misuse and its direct and indirect consequences and will educate attendees on the vital role of pharmacists in changing prescribing practices, increasing access to naloxone, and improving access to the opioid agonist therapies methadone and buprenorphine with pharmacy dispensing.

Specific objectives covered during the session include:

  1. Describe the current opioid crisis in the United States.
  2. List primary approaches to resolving the crisis.
  3. Discuss long-term research approaches to resolving the crisis.
  4. Identify ways that pharmacists can be central to changing prescribing practices and increasing access to naloxone, methadone and buprenorphine.

Dr. Christopher Jones, Director of the Division of Science Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will be delivering this keynote address to CPNP Annual Meeting attendees on Monday, April 23 in Indianapolis. Dr. Jones’ career has focused on public health and prescription drug abuse. He has served as a senior advisor in the Office of Public Health Strategy and Analysis as part of the Office of the Commissioner at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Jones has led the Center for Disease Control and Prevention drug abuse and overdose work, and completed a one-year detail to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) as Senior Public Health Advisor. 

Dr. Jones earned a bachelor’s degree from Reinhardt College, a doctor of pharmacy degree from Mercer University, and a master’s of public health from New York Medical College School of Public Health. With his unique background, Dr. Jones will lend a pharmacist and public health perspective to the current opioid crisis along with the strategies to address it.

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