Prescription opioid addiction and abuse is a public health emergency in the US, with approximately 130 deaths recorded daily between 2016 and 2017 from opioid-related drug overdoses.
This North American-based issue is now “heading over here” to Europe, according to Gabrielle Silver, general manager of LloydsPharmacy Clinical Homecare in the UK, and lead independent director of Opiant Pharmaceuticals in California.
“One of the reasons why there is such a high level of opioid addiction [in the US] is because physicians in their training are not taught in the same way [as in the UK],” said Silver at Pharma Integrates, in London, yesterday.
In the US, “very different sorts of levels of motivations” influence physicians, driven by the consumer push, a need to differentiate between brands, and a pressure to retain patient populations, explained Silver.
These factors can lead to the early prescription of opioid-based painkillers, she added: “The early use of opioid drugs in standard care is the reason why there is a huge opioid crisis.”
‘Pharma can do more’
According to Silver, both industry and academia can work to promote change, by asking the question: “How can we instil again, with absolute focus and clarity, the teaching that says ‘This is not the way to manage pain, there are multiple ways to manage pain’?”
Could investing in specific pain physicians be a solution?, she asked delegates.
“Pharma can think differently…We have to understand that unless we invest now, we are going to go in that [North American] direction,” she added. “Pharma has immense influence and I know that they can do so much to try and push things forward.”
“I’ve got nothing but respect for what pharma can achieve and have achieved, but they can do more. It’s up to them to move beyond this [traditional] transactional relationship.”