Compliance packaging could ‘clamp’ abuse, pharmacist says

By Karen Colbenson

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

A local pharmacist has an idea that could help the Austin Area Drug Task Force gain some ground in their battle to prevent prescription drug abuse among young people.

Chris Meyer, a pharmacist at Medicap Pharmacy in Austin, pitched an idea Wednesday for local pharmacies to use compliance packaging more frequently for young people who require prescription drugs. Compliance packaging, or blister packs, are designed to help patients take their medications more reliably and safely. Pills are separated in the packaging according to the required daily dose. Each package contains a weekly supply of medication.

Meyer’s suggestion came in response to the results of a local survey on prescription drug abuse among Austin’s youth. He said the survey results startled him.


Drug abuse

Austin students reported on the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey that drugs not prescribed to them were "fairly easy" or "very easy" to obtain. Drug abuse was reportedly highest among high school seniors.

According to Lea Oelfke, school counselor at Ellis Middle School, Austin’s rate of prescription drug abuse is higher than the state trend and is double that of the surrounding counties.

Jack Wittkopp, a licensed chemical dependency counselor at Austin Medical Center, said prescription drug abuse has already surpassed marijuana use among students.

In response, the Drug Task Force and the Mower County Chemical Health Coalition recently announced the development of a local initiative called, "Move … Watch … Dispose," which aims at cutting prescription drug abuse among teenagers. The campaign launch is slated for sometime next month.

Compliance packaging

The special packaging costs about $20 a month, and isn’t covered by insurance, according to Meyer. He suggested the Task Force apply for a grant to help local families pay for the packaging.

The packaging option is often used by elderly patients, but could be a great benefit for others who need better control over their medication, said Meyer.


"How do you keep a justified count of what’s in a (prescription pill) bottle?" Meyer said. "Instead of a bottle, this puts more of a clamp on the source (where the abuse) is coming from. It also puts a little more responsibility in the parents’ hands."

Meyer said that if a grant can be secured for a year or two, more people will become aware of the packaging option.

"It would get the ball rolling," he said. "I think people might grab ahold of the idea and continue to use it."

Rick Knoll, a pharmacist at AMC, said that if one pharmacy offers the packaging, it likely would prompt others to do so.

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