Opioid overdose counseling and prescribing of naloxone in rural community pharmacies: A pilot study

Explor Res Clin Soc Pharm. 2021 Jun;2:100019. doi: 10.1016/j.rcsop.2021.100019. Epub 2021 May 8.


Introduction: Fatal overdoses from opioids increased four-fold from 1999 to 2009, and they are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. Legislation has been passed by every state to increase access to naloxone but dispensing by community pharmacies remains low.

Objectives: The objective of this study was to pilot test a proactive opioid overdose counseling intervention and a passive naloxone intervention, and the implementation strategies developed to support their delivery, in rural community pharmacies on relevant implementation outcomes.

Methods: The interventions, implementation strategies, and the overall pilot study approach were developed in a collaborative partnership with a regional supermarket pharmacy chain. They selected 2 rural pharmacies to participate in the pilot study and 2 non-intervention pharmacies to serve as comparison sites. Two interventions were pilot tested in the 2 intervention pharmacies: 1)a proactive opioid overdose counseling intervention and 2) a passive naloxone intervention. An explanatory sequential mixed-methods design was utilized to evaluate adoption, feasibility, acceptability, and appropriateness outcomes after the 3-month observation period.

Results: Between the 2 intervention pharmacies, 130 patients received the opioid overdose counseling intervention. 44 (33.8%) were prescribed and dispensed naloxone. Zero naloxone prescriptions were written or dispensed at the comparison pharmacies. Interviews with pharmacy staff found the interventions to be feasible, acceptable, and appropriate in their settings.

Conclusion: This small scale pilot study in partnership with a regional supermarket pharmacy chain had positive results with a third of patients who received the opioid overdose counseling intervention being dispensed naloxone. However, the majority of patients did not receive naloxone indicating additional revisions to the intervention components and/or implementation strategies are needed to improve the overall impact of the interventions.