Pharmacists Can Play A Key Role in the Fight Against Drug Diversion

By John Coster, RPh., Ph.D.

NCPA commends the U. S. Senate for recently adopting a resolution designating October 2011 as “National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month” to raise attention to the problem of prescription medicine abuse, especially by teenagers.

In particular, we appreciate the efforts of Sens. Chuck Grassley R-Iowa; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V.; Joe Manchin, D-W.V.; and Rob Portman, R-Ohio in working for this declaration, There are many sobering statistics about the rampaging abuse of prescription drugs: 7 million Americans reporting non-medical use; $56 billion in costs associated with abuse; $25 billion in direct health care costs, including 1.2 million emergency department visits annually.

This is a topic of growing interest for our members and the families they serve. That is why NCPA is proud to be a part of Safeguard My Meds (, a national patient education and safety campaign. The aim of the program—a collaboration between NCPA, Purdue Pharma L.P., and the U.S. Conference of Mayors — is to offer information on simple, yet important, steps that can be taken to protect prescription medicines in the home and keep them from falling into the wrong hands. With the help of community pharmacists like you, we can spread this important message to many more individuals.

Beginning this week, NCPA members will receive free Safeguard My Meds campaign materials to offer to help patients better secure their prescription medicines. While supplies last, you can order up to 200 more free copies by visiting, entering your email address (the same email address used to join NCPA) as your login and your NCPA Membership ID as your password. If you need additional brochures, you can order directly from Pharm Fresh Media through

Actress and parent advocate Catherine Hicks is making a national appeal to Americans to take personal responsibility for properly storing and disposing of prescription medicines to help prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. Hicks has joined forces with us and Purdue Pharma L.P. on Safeguard My Meds, and will be taking her message to the NCPA Annual Convention and Trade Exposition, beginning October 8 in Nashville. She will be available at the NCPA Pavilion from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. on October 10, 2011 to talk one-on-one with pharmacy staff about the Safeguard My Meds education initiative

 Safeguard My Meds is part of a broader initiative we began earlier this year on prescription abuse. We have created a Prevent Prescription Abuse homepage, providing resources, tools, and educational materials for pharmacists and patients related to medication abuse and misuse. It can help independent community pharmacists play an integral role in curtailing prescription drug abuse and educating consumers on proper medication use. NCPA’s Dispose My Meds program is also part of this initiative and while controlled substances are not currently allowed to be returned, proper disposal of other items can also help. So far the nearly 1,400 pharmacies participating in Dispose My Meds have helped move 50 tons of medication out of medicine cabinets to where they are properly disposed of. During American Pharmacists Month in October, many of those pharmacies will promote their services to their communities. Click here if you want to know how you can participate.

Community pharmacists typically are the last health care professionals seen by patients before medications are used, and we are among the most accessible resources for patients to learn about safe medication practices. Thus, we are in a prime position to help patients get the most benefit from their medicine and ensure safe and proper handling—from dispensing to disposal. Together we can help make a difference.

 If you have any questions, please contact Valerie Briggs.

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