California pharmacist recognized for commitment to preventing Rx abuse


Nathan A. Painter, PharmD, CDE

Associate Clinical Professor University of California San Diego (UCSD) Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences La Jolla, Calif.

The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) implemented the GenerationRx Award of Excellence to recognize one pharmacist, nationally, for his or her commitment to leveraging community partnerships and collaboration to prevent the abuse of prescription medication.

Nathan A. Painter, PharmD, CDE, of La Jolla, Calif., was named the 2015 recipient of this prestigious award. He is passionate about the GenerationRx program, an educational initiative created by The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy and the Cardinal Health Foundation, which encourages health care providers, community leaders, parents, teens, and college students to actively work to prevent the misuse of prescription medication.

Painter is an associate clinical professor at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, where he manages a pharmacist-run clinic for patients with chronic diseases. He also serves as the faculty advisor for UCSD’s APhA - Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) GenerationRx activities and where he created a prescription drug misuse elective course.  Here, Painter shares his story about how the GenerationRx program has impacted his life.

Q: Can you summarize your local GenerationRx program, and what strategies you used to raise awareness of prescription drug abuse in your community?

A: Our school’s GenerationRx program educates students in the community about prescription drug abuse and prevention. We focus on high school and middle school students, and we actually go in to classrooms in groups of two to three to deliver an interactive presentation that’s broken down in to three parts. We start with myths and facts about prescription drug abuse, then show a video sharing facts and creating an awareness of the problem. We finish with a skit, and we invite students to take part in actually writing part of the script.

This format really differentiates our program because we’re getting in to the individual classroom and building relationships, rather than hosting a big assembly. The high school classes range from 25 to 30 students, so we try to break up in groups to have discussions and really get in to what the students have heard about drugs, then we base our discussion around their feedback.

There has been so much support from the schools in our community during the last four years, and several of the schools are very engaged with the program and ask us to come back every year!

Q: Why did you decide to offer an elective course on prescription drug misuse at the (UCSD) Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences?

A: While still a junior faculty at UC San Diego, I participated in a leadership program and was required to do a special project. I was already starting to get involved with the GenerationRx program, so I proposed this elective as my project. It took me two to three years to get approval for the course, and then shift my teaching responsibilities, so I was able to teach it. We’ve offered the course for two quarters, and both times, we had a full class and a waiting list. There was a 30-student cap the first two quarters, but we’ll likely remove it moving forward, due to the high demand.

Q: Tell me more about the San Diego County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force. How did you get involved, and what does the task force do?

A: Our local Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, which started as Oxy Task Force, was set in motion by the county.  It’s an interprofessional group of pharmacists, physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, prevention specialists, law enforcement, public health and other professionals. We have quarterly meetings to discuss issues facing the county. The pharmacy-specific task force, which I chair, is very new, and we’re tackling issues that directly impact community pharmacies.

Our initial efforts focus on raising awareness of the task force itself; it’s a shared responsibility of pharmacists and physicians to ensure proper medication safety. We know there are certain red flags to watch for, so we need to make all pharmacists more aware. We created a one-page Quick Guide that shares red flags to look for, best practices and resources to report the issue.

The focus right now is on independent pharmacies in our county. We want to be able to track the success of our efforts in their pharmacies and earn their support, and hopefully the support of a couple health systems that have committed to use our Quick Guide in their pharmacies. It will be an evolving resource, and these initial pharmacies can help us test it, make improvements and continue to adapt.

Q: Can you give me an example of how your task force is impacting local pharmacies?

A: Sure. One great example is the drug, Naloxone, which is an antidote to an opioid overdose. It’s often used on an outpatient basis to prevent a patient from overdosing. Studies have proven that if the drug is used to save someone’s life, that patient is less likely to ever have another overdose event. When used properly, it’s a safe and effective drug, with minimal side effects.

A state law passed in California, allowing pharmacists to dispense this drug without a prescription. Our task force is promoting education for pharmacists to properly perform requirements from the Board of Pharmacy to furnish the drug. Plus, there are misconceptions about the drug, so education is important. Another focus for our task force is safety medication disposal. There are no more big, Drug Enforcement Administration take-back days, so our task force is identifying options, including a county-wide ordinance that requires manufacturers to pay for drug disposal options, increasing the number of approved drop-off boxes in the county, etc.

Q: What advice do you have for other pharmacists who want to get involved with GenerationRx?

A: Prescription drug abuse and misuse is a very complicated issue. Being aware of the problem is a start, but pharmacists and student pharmacists need to know they have an important role when it comes to prescription drug abuse. Every patient seeking a medicine might be abusing it – you honestly need to approach it that way. It’s like the expectations of a sterile environment in the OR; approach every patient and prescription in the same manner to ensure consistency, and you can help minimize and prevent misuse and abuse.

It’s also important to know how to respond when there are issues.  Knowing the resources available and how to recognize an issue is crucial. There’s a lot of shared responsibility in solving this problem.

Register to download a free GenerationRx toolkit to make it easy to educate your community about prescription drug abuse and misuse. You’ll find easy-to-access and easy-to-use educational materials that help you discuss medication safety for grades K-5, or prescription drug abuse prevention and misuse for adults, youth (ages 12-17), seniors and college students.