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Pharmacist’s Role During Opioid Crisis in the USA Essay

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Updated: Sep 10th, 2021

Duties and Responsibilities of a Pharmacist

Over the past years, the role of the pharmacist in the North American health-care system evolved considerably. Blouin and Adams (2017) highlighted that now the pharmacist does not only distribute medicine to the patients but also works together with other healthcare professionals to provide “appropriate medication therapy management” (p. 166), an example of which includes post-hospitalization care. Easily accessible, druggist serves as the trustworthy and just covenant, who supplies the clients with the necessary medical information (American Pharmacists Association [APhA], n.d.). As followed by APhA (2016), typical responsibilities and duties of the pharmacist may include, but not limited to, assessing the appropriateness of the medicine, improving medication adherence, and coordinating care transitions. In other words, this health care professional provides health services to the patients by managing, distributing, and advising on their physician’s prescriptions.

Analysis of the Assigned Case

Brief Overview of the Case

With the increasing instances of drug misuse in the pharmaceutical industry, this case-study discusses the moral and governmental implications of the pharmacist’s actions when distributing prescribed drugs to the patient. As written by Grass (2016), the pharmacy did not exercise corresponding responsibility to ensure that the medicine was designated for its legitimate purpose, overviewed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). While the representatives of the Medicine Shoppe argued that they both contacted the physician’s office before filling the prescriptions and knew the client for a long time, their license was revoked. Now sharing the accountability with the prescribing physician, the pharmacists suggested that they are sued for not making medical judgments regarding the legitimacy of the medical purpose of the drug, which is beyond their training (Grass, 2016). The question of the legality of the Medicine Shoppe’s actions remains open, leading to the discussion of the health care professional’s role in times of drug misuse crisis.

Evaluation of the Pharmacist’s Performance and Pharmacy’s Accountability

Even though the Medicine Shoppe fulfilled basic requirements to ensure the legitimate purpose of the prescribed drug, the pharmacist’s behavior was not entirely professional. Grass (2016) wrote that the druggist relied on his previous knowledge of both the patient and the physician, which introduces a personal bias in his judgments. As claimed by Cochran, Hruschak, DeFosse, and Hohmeier (2016), the government has started a new drug monitoring program with conclusive reports on each patient, containing dates and purposes of the prescription of controlled medicine. Therefore, the verifying procedure with the physician’s office shall not satisfy the legal conditions in this case. Furthermore, Grass (2016) emphasized that the prescript contained certain red flags, combining three strong narcotics, whose distribution should have been suspended according to the DEA rules. This claim refutes the company’s argument regarding the “absent clear evidence of diversion” (Grass, 2016, p. 35), meaning that the classification of these medicines falls under the spectrum of the pharmacist’s medical training. For the reasons mentioned above, the Medicine Shoppe should be held accountable in this situation.

Impact of Pharmacist’s Actions on People and Community

An active, helpful position of the pharmacist when communicating with the patient has shown positive improvements in the individual’s procedure of taking medication. As followed by APhA (2016), the druggist may impact the person’s health condition by ensuring proper access to the medicines, performing medication management services, and assessing the patient’s health status. However, in times of an opioid crisis in the USA, the way pharmacists influence patients and the community, on the whole, has changed. According to Cochran et al. (2016), pharmacists make daily decisions regarding the refills of the prescribed “controlled” medications. Their readiness to follow legal requirements when determining whether the drug is used for its legitimate purpose is crucial for the overall health of the community. Educated about the drug misuse, health care professionals demonstrated a higher ability to discuss precaution strategies and preventative techniques of early refills (Cochran et al., 2016). As a link between the physician’s prescription and actual medicine distribution, the pharmacist is liable for checking the exact cause for the prescript to avoid instances of excessive drug usage.

Possible Precautions and Regulations

Experiencing an opioid crisis, with the high percentage of the controlled medicine abused, the US health care system needs to strengthen its regulations. As mentioned by Cochran et al. (2016), Americans use approximately 80% of the prescribed opioids worldwide. Excessive refills and unattended remedies frequently result in the consumption of the drug by the patient’s healthy family members and friends. Thus, law enforcers insist on strengthening regulations associated with the distribution of the “controlled” medications by incorporating prescription drug monitoring programs (Cochran et al., 2016). Stricter legal regulations alone cannot reduce instances of drug misuse, calling for innovative precautions. Cochran et al. (2016) suggested introducing guidelines for the pharmacists for intervention purposes in case of an early refill. These tips may include referring “at risk” patients to the medication therapy management session, where health care professionals can help to increase their adherence to the prescript. Another solution is encouraging patients to participate in the take-back programs, where unused medications can be dropped off without legal repercussions (Cochran et al., 2016). Apart from these precautions, pharmacists may advise individuals to seek counseling or join a support group to overcome their starting addiction.


In times of an opioid crisis, pharmacists should effectively cooperate with other healthcare professionals and strictly adhere to the DEA’s guidelines to reduce instances of drug misuse. Based on the brief overview of the Medicine Shoppe’s case, the company failed to meet legal conditions for the distribution of the “controlled” medication. Unable to recognize red flags of the prescription, pharmacists did not check the legitimate purpose of the narcotics. To prevent similar instances in the future, new precautions and stronger governmental regulations in the industry are necessary.


American Pharmacists Association. (n.d.). Code of ethics. Web.

APhA. (2016). Pharmacist’s impact on patient safety. Web.

Blouin, R. A., & Adams, M. L. (2017). The role of the pharmacist in health care expanding and evolving. North Carolina Medical Journal, 78(3), 165-167. Web.

Cochran, G., Hruschak, V., DeFosse, B., & Hohmeier, K. C. (2016). Prescription opioid abuse: Pharmacists’ perspective and response. Integrated Pharmacy Research & Practice, 5, 65-73. Web.

Grass, J. C. (2016). The Medicine Shoppe v. Loretta Lynch, et al.: Pharmacists and prescribing physicians are equally liable. The Health Lawyer, 28(3), 28-37. Web.

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