Boston Medical Center to Pilot an Opioid Abuse Prevention Program

The hospital received a $1.3 million grant to test how pharmacies can help stop opioid overdoses.

Thanks to a $1.3 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Boston Medical Center (BMC) is beginning a pilot program to test how pharmacies can help prevent opioid addiction and overdoses.

BMC, in partnership with Providence Hospital and CVS Health, will use the money to test a system where pharmacies would be equipped with naloxone rescue kits (naloxone is a drug commonly used to treat an overdose) to see how pharmacies can best join the fight against opioid abuse, which includes use of heroin, prescription drugs, and morphine. The pilot program will run in Massachusetts and Rhode Island CVS and Eaton Apothecary pharmacies.

Many hospitals already provide naloxone to patients struggling with substance abuse, but allowing pharmacies to do the same could improve distribution and access to care. Traci Green, the study’s lead investigator and the deputy director of BMC’s Injury Prevention Center, said in a statement that pharmacies could have a huge impact on lessening the impact of drug abuse:

“Pharmacies have enormous potential to expand the reach and impact of critical public health interventions, just as we have seen happen with pharmacy access to clean syringes and adult immunizations. But how do we do that with naloxone rescue kits?  That’s what we intend to figure out here in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.”

Massachusetts and Rhode Island are two states that could greatly benefit from this study. Massachusetts’ opioid epidemic, particularly with regards to heroin, has been well-documented, and an estimated 1,008 Massachusetts residents died from accidental opioid overdoses in 2014. In Rhode Island, 239 people fatally overdosed last year, but the overdose rate, taking population into account, was actually higher than in the Commonwealth.

Luckily, BMC has experience in this area—in 2009, the hospital was the first in the country to provide naloxone rescue kits to patients.