WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – They are the men and women we count on to dispense the medications we need. But pharmacists are much more than that. They play a critical role in medication safety especially given our nation’s opioid epidemic.

The opioid crisis has proven to be too big to solve with any single initiative. But some pharmacy students who Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller spoke to on Tuesday are eager to be part of the solution as they pursue their careers.

Four Wilkes University pharmacy students raised t heir hands when asked if they also worked as pharmacy interns. They also acknowledged they all experienced having to question patients about prescriptions for opioids. 

It’s a conversation that, while not comfortable, is becoming more and more necessary. Wilkes University pharmacy student Harrison Ferro said, “Pharmacists really can be the last line when it comes to making that interaction with a patient, talking to them about it.”

Wilkes University hosted its 2nd Annual Pain & Addiction Summit on April 12 which was attended by many of its pharmacy students. Several members of the non-profit group Athletes For Care spoke about their personal battles with pain, and the use of opioids and plant-based alternatives. Wilkes University pharmacy student Taylor Hodle said, “To hear it from a patient’s perspective was a… shed a completely different light on all of the potential treatment options.” Krushna Shah who is also a Wilkes University pharmacy student said, “It was very impactful and the biggest thing I actually learned was how addiction is actually, like, a disease.”

To avoid contributing to the addiction cycle, these students say it’s safety first when it comes to filling high-risk opioid prescriptions. One thing they say will be important in their profession that perhaps their predecessors didn’t focus on is the approach of teamwork in handling pain management. They see themselves using their career as a key link to curbing the opioid crisis. Wilkes University pharmacy student Dylan Fox said, “I think in 20 years from now it’s going to be a much different landscape of caring for patients and a whole integrated healthcare model.”

Wilkes University pharmacy students will take part in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day later this month.

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