Pharmacists and the opioid crisis: A narrative review of pharmacists' practice roles

Jeffrey P. Bratberg, Zachary P.W. Smothers, Kathryn Collins, Brian Erstad, Jennifer Ruiz Veve, Andrew J. Muzyk

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Introduction: Nearly 2.5 million Americans have an opioid use disorder (OUD) related to prescription and/or illicit opioids. Pharmacists, as one of the most accessible care providers, are essential in mitigating the mortality and morbidity of the opioid overdose crisis. Pharmacists are involved in numerous care activities related to this crisis and to caring for patients with an OUD. Objective: The objective of this paper was to conduct a literature review to highlight several pharmacist-driven practices that provide a broad range of prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery services to patients affected or potentially affected by the opioid crisis. Methods: Articles had to meet the criteria of describing pharmacist-led practice related to providing care to patients at risk of an opioid overdose, with an OUD, or related to opioid safety. The literature search was conducted in 2018 and utilized numerous sources including: OneSearch (EBSCOhost), PubMed, ScienceDirect, and the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association Opioid Topic Collection. Results: Seven articles were chosen for inclusion in this review. These studies report on innovative programs and practices that describe the role of pharmacists in the opioid crisis. Studies demonstrate the types of involvement pharmacists have in caring for patients throughout the care continuum: actively engaged in upstream interventions aimed at preventing misuse and improve safety; screening and monitoring opioid prescribing and usage; providing access to naloxone; and, assisting in the recovery and rehabilitation process of patients with OUD, including collaboratively managing OUD with evidence-based pharmacotherapy. Conclusion: The studies included in our narrative review demonstrate how innovative programs and practices can expand the role of pharmacists throughout the entire spectrum of interventions applied to the opioid crisis by capitalizing on their existing skill sets and knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)478-484
Number of pages7
JournalJACCP Journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • buprenorphine
  • naloxone
  • naltrexone
  • opioids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Pharmacy


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