Utah pharmacists join fight against opioid overdose deaths

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Angela Dunn, deputy state epidemiologist for the Utah Department of Health, speaks about an effort to encourage Utahns to talk to their pharmacists about the dangers of prescription opioids and the use of naloxone, during a press conference hosted by the Utah Department of Health and Utah Pharmacy Association at Harmons City Creek in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 27, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s not uncommon for pharmacists to hear stories of how drugs impact patients’ lives.

But it’s the devastating results that leave them wanting to do more for their patients, said Greg Jones, director of pharmacy for Harmons Grocery and chairman of the Utah Pharmacy Licensing Board.

Jones is behind a new movement that will give pharmacists across the state a reason to strike up a conversation with patients who pick up potentially addictive medications.

“It’s our job to talk to patients about their prescriptions, and not just opioids,” he said.

Throughout May, bottles of pills that contain potentially harmful medications will have a red warning sticker on the top to remind patients what they’re taking.

“People underestimate the danger of their medications,” Jones said Thursday. “People think they’ll be fine taking it, and quite often they’re not.”

Every month in Utah, 24 people die from prescription drug overdoses, according to the Utah Controlled Substance Database.

“Overdose can happen even when you’re taking medications as directed,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, deputy state epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist with the Utah Department of Health.

Dunn said the number of opioid prescriptions has increased over the years, as have the deaths the drugs can cause.

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