Boston Medical Center Teams Up with Rhode Island Hospital, CVS Health to Address Use of Pharmacy-Based Naloxone to Combat Opioid Addiction and Overdoses

Monday, August 10, 2015

BOSTON – Boston Medical Center (BMC) has received a $1.3 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to support a demonstration project of pharmacy-based naloxone rescue kits to help reduce opioid addiction and overdose death in two New England States: Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The study will be conducted in partnership with Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, CVS Health, based in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, which has pharmacies throughout the U.S., and several local community pharmacies in both states, including Massachusetts-based Eaton Apothecary.

“While education and intervention have come a long way in the past several years, there is still a lot of work to be done to reduce opioid overdose and overdose death,” said the study’s principal investigator, Traci C. Green, PhD, MSc, deputy director of the Injury Prevention Center at BMC and associate professor of emergency medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. “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.”

In both states, pharmacists must be trained to distribute naloxone rescue kits through continuing education that covers opioid addiction, overdose risk and the benefits of appropriate use of naloxone. The study will track and analyze data from the participating pharmacies throughout the two states to develop best practices for a national pharmacy-based naloxone rescue kit program.

To address the growing opioid epidemic, hospitals and pharmacies in both states recently began providing naloxone to patients with substance use disorder and their loved ones for immediate use following an overdose. Uniquely, under a standing order from BMC’s Alexander Walley, MD, the medical director of the Massachusetts naloxone program and also a Co-Investigator on this study, state-funded community programs train and equip family, friends, and people who use opioids in overdose recognition and naloxone administration. Similar infrastructure is absent in most states, such as Rhode Island. The study will look at how pharmacies can be leveraged in both settings to increase naloxone distribution. 

As a leader in addiction medicine, BMC recognized early on the need for such interventions, and in 2009, began providing overdose prevention education and naloxone rescue kits to emergency department patients at risk for opioid overdose. BMC was the first hospital in the country to provide the rescue kits to patients.

Green and Walley, in collaboration with Josiah Rich, MD, MPH, a physician at The Miriam Hospital in Providence, and Jeffrey Bratberg, PharmD, from the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy, developed protocols for pharmacies to supply, order and provide naloxone to patients. The protocols are in place throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island pharmacies, including the 418 CVS pharmacies and all Eaton Apothecary locations in the two states. The authors will identify relevant organizational and community factors associated with successful implementation of the program to incorporate into a national program.

“In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, we have been severely impacted by the epidemic of overdose deaths,” said Rich, who also is professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. “Rhode Island Hospital is honored to partner with BMC, CVS and other local pharmacies to develop a new standard of care that we expect will prevent deaths caused by opioid overdoses.”

Drug overdose is the leading cause of injury death in the U.S., greater than car accidents. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, more than 24.5 million people age 12 or older in the U.S. (9.4 percent of the population) live with substance use disorders, including 1.9 million who live with prescription opioid abuse or dependence. Each day, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 100 Americans die of drug overdose. 

”CVS Health has a long-standing commitment to prevent prescription drug abuse and our participation in this demonstration project complements our ongoing efforts to expand the availability and distribution of naloxone to prevent opioid overdoses,” said William Shrank, MD, chief scientific officer of CVS Health and a study investigator. “All of our CVS/pharmacy locations in Rhode Island and Massachusetts keep naloxone in stock and it is available without a prescription. In addition, by the end of this month, CVS/pharmacy will be able to dispense naloxone without a prescription in 14 additional states.” 

Naloxone can be obtained from pharmacies without a prescription in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. 

About Boston Medical Center

Boston Medical Center is a private, not-for-profit, 496-bed, academic medical center that is the primary teaching affiliate of Boston University School of Medicine. It is the largest and busiest provider of trauma and emergency services in New England. Committed to providing high-quality health care to all, the hospital offers a full spectrum of pediatric and adult care services including primary and family medicine and advanced specialty care with an emphasis on community-based care. Boston Medical Center offers specialized care for complex health problems and is a leading research institution, receiving more than $118 million in sponsored research funding in fiscal year 2014. It is the 11th largest recipient of funding in the U.S. from the National Institutes of Health among independent hospitals. In 1997, BMC founded Boston Medical Center Health Plan, Inc., now one of the top ranked Medicaid MCOs in the country, as a non-profit managed care organization. It does business in Massachusetts as BMC HealthNet Plan and as Well Sense Health Plan in New Hampshire, serving more than 315,000 people, collectively. Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine are partners in the Boston HealthNet – 13 community health centers focused on providing exceptional health care to residents of Boston. For more information, please visit http://www.bmc.org.

About Rhode Island Hospital

Founded in 1863, Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I., is a private, not-for-profit hospital and is the principal teaching hospital of the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. A major trauma center for southeastern New England, the hospital is dedicated to being on the cutting edge of medicine and research. Last year, Rhode Island Hospital received more than $50 million in external research funding. It is also home to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, the state’s only facility dedicated to pediatric care. For more information, visit www.rhodeislandhospital.org.

About CVS Health 

CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) is a pharmacy innovation company helping people on their path to better health. Through its 7,800 retail drugstores, nearly 1,000 walk-in medical clinics, a leading pharmacy benefits manager with more than 70 million plan members, and expanding specialty pharmacy services, the Company enables people, businesses and communities to manage health in more affordable, effective ways. This unique integrated model increases access to quality care, delivers better health outcomes and lowers overall health care costs.  Find more information about how CVS Health is shaping the future of health at www.cvshealth.com

About the University of Rhode Island and its College of Pharmacy 

The University of Rhode Island has many of today’s leading innovators, researchers and creative problem solvers. The University is known regionally and worldwide for its big ideas and pioneering research in such areas as air, water, and ground pollution; biotechnology and life sciences; engineering, marine sciences, forensic sciences, pharmaceuticals, behavioral sciences, and public health promotion. Unique interdisciplinary courses and research projects provide its 13,000 undergraduate and 3,000 graduate students with cutting-edge experiences. URI’s College of Pharmacy is located in a new, $75 million facility where faculty and students are conducting the highest quality research in pharmaceutical, biomedical, clinical and population-based sciences. The College is also going deep into the ocean and forest to find natural substances that could prevent and fight diseases. Target areas include cancer, aging, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV, infectious diseases, disability and public health. The College has attracted about $61 million in National Institutes of Health funding to expand biomedical research capacity at nearly every college in the state and is playing leading roles in URI’s Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program and the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience.

Media Contacts

Boston Medical Center – Jenny Eriksen Leary, jenny.eriksen@bmc.org, 617-638-6841

Rhode Island Hospital – Beth Bailey, bbailey@lifespan.org, 401-444-6421

CVS Health – Christine Cramer, Christine.Cramer@CVSHealth.com, 401-770-3317

URI College of Pharmacy – Dave Lavallee, dlavallee@uri.edu, 401-874-5862