Pharmacy Professor Collaborates on Paper Addressing Potential Response to Opioid Overdose Incidence

Minji Sohn
Minji Sohn, an associate professor of Pharmaceutical Science at Ferris State University collaborated with colleagues at the University of Kentucky on a paper published in June by the Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA Network Open.

A Ferris State University associate professor of Pharmaceutical Science has collaborated with colleagues at the University of Kentucky colleagues on a paper, which the Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA Network Open published June 21.

Minji Sohn, who earned her doctorate from the University of Kentucky, worked with UK School of Pharmacy professor Jeffrey Talbert, associate professor Patricia Freeman, professor of psychiatry Michelle Lofwall and biostatistician Zhengyan Huang to produce “Association of Naloxone Coprescription Laws with Naloxone Prescription Dispensing in the United States.” Their finding assessed the association between legally-mandated coprescription of naloxone, a drug viewed as an antidote for opioid overdose, and the dispensing of naloxone over time.

Sohn said that with more than 47,000 opioid overdose deaths (OOD), in 2017, a six-fold increase in these incidents has developed in the U.S. since 1999.

“The opioid crisis is a fight against overdose mortality, and increasing access to naloxone to those with higher risk for opioid overdose is an important public health initiative,” Sohn said. “Our study suggests that health care practitioners play a crucial role in increasing the awareness, possession, and the use of naloxone.”

Sohn had full access to all study data, which considered the association between the number of naloxone prescriptions dispensed and the legal requirements for naloxone coprescription using longitudinal data analysis. In 2017, the states of Vermont and Virginia became the first to mandate naloxone coprescription to opioid-receiving patients with OOD risk factors.

“Our next step is to assess how different policy interventions (standing orders, third-party prescribing, coprescription, etc.) which are designed to increase naloxone availability impact opioid overdose deaths,” Sohn said. “Recent work by Abouk and colleagues reported that pharmacist-based access laws decrease risk for opioid overdose death. We are interested in understanding if coprescription mandates might have a similar or greater impact.”

Sohn noted that their study focused on naloxone as a pharmaceutical response to limit risks related to opioid overdose, with no assertions regarding misuse of such medication.

“Individuals using illicit opioids or those with opioid use disorder have increased risk for overdose and should receive a naloxone prescription. Individuals using opioids as prescribed may still have risk of overdose under specific situations, such as receiving higher morphine equivalent doses or receiving opioids concurrently with alcohol and/or other medications that are sedating (e.g. benzodiazepines),” Sohn said. “Additional efforts are needed if we are to meet the U.S. Surgeon General’s goal of broadening the availability and use of naloxone to reduce OOD mortality.”