The Howard University College of Pharmacy was recently awarded an $85,899 grant to educate the region’s pharmacists and pharmacy technicians on the dangers of opioid addiction and abuse.
The grant, which was awarded to the Office of Continuing Professional Education in the college, originated as a result of a mandate from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The problem of opioid abuse, misuse and addiction is one of the most significant public health crises facing the U.S. today. Anthea V. Francis, R.Ph., coordinator of the Office of Continuing Professional Education, said her office decided to apply for the program after noticing that no pharmacy school had received this award despite the fact pharmacists were among the healthcare professionals the FDA listed should receive opioid addiction continuing education.
“The award to the College of Pharmacy marks the first time that a pharmacy institution in the nation has ever been awarded this grant in its seven-year grant cycle,” Francis says. “Pharmacists and technicians are often the initial face of interactions with patients. There is a lot of opportunity to help from a public health standpoint.”
In 2011, the FDA mandated that pharmaceutical manufacturers provide funds to educate health care professionals on the dangers of opioid addiction. These manufacturers, known as REMS Program Companies (RPCs), are the commercial source of grant funding for Opioid Analgesic REMS-Compliant Continuing Education; and served as grant sponsors. The grant will be used to fund a major continuing education symposium for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians from the Washington region this spring. One of the main goals of the symposium will be to introduce participants to available clinical tools and resources meant to help patients at risk of opioid abuse.
Participants at the symposium will earn continuing education credits that can be counted toward professional license renewals. Additionally, those participants will receive opioid addiction and abuse education and training certification. The Howard University College of Pharmacy is the only pharmacy school in the District of Columbia.
“The grant is very important because pharmacists are the last stop for the patient,” said Bisrat Hailemeskel, PharmD, associate professor in the College of Pharmacy who is serving as the principal investigator. “No appointment is required. There’s no charge for consultation. People come to the pharmacy for a lot of other reasons making it very convenient.”
Through grants and other initiatives, the FDA has stepped up efforts to find innovative approaches to help those currently addicted to opioids and to help prevent new cases of addiction. At the same time the FDA is seeking to ensure that patients with true clinical need are getting proper care to manage their pain. According to the FDA, more than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids.
“The office of continuing education is going through a growth phase under the leadership of Ms. Francis and Dr. Hailemeskel,” said Toyin Tofade, PharmD, dean of the Howard University College of Pharmacy. “We are so excited to be chosen for this opportunity and look forward to serving the community in this way.”
Hailemeskel worked with Francis to help write the grant and the Washington DC Pharmacy Association (WDCPhA) (WDCPhA) will be an official collaborator on this project.
Howard University has taken the lead in the public conversation about substance use disorder. On November 1, 2018, the campus hosted its third inter-disciplinary policy symposium on substance addiction and abuse and the American family. This symposium is a collaborative effort organized and led by Dr. Earl Ettienne, faculty member in the College of Pharmacy.