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ETSU recognized for efforts to address prescription drug abuse

Generation Rx

JOHNSON CITY (April 13, 2015) – The Generation Rx (GenRx) chapter at East Tennessee State University’s Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy recently brought home a national award for its efforts related to prescription drug abuse.

The student organization, which aims to enhance medication safety and combat the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs through educational programs, was named the best overall GenRx chapter in the country during the American Pharmacists Association – Academy of Student Pharmacists conference held late last month.

“They look at what we’ve accomplished over the year to determine a winner,” said Dr. Sarah Melton, advisor for the group and faculty member at the College of Pharmacy. “I think they really liked the work we are doing in intranasal naloxone training for overdoses.”

Intranasal naloxone is a therapeutic intervention used to treat heroine and other opiod overdoses.

The GenRx group from ETSU has reached hundreds of young people through its community outreach presentations and has created a provider toolkit presentation about prescription drug abuse. The presentations, often given by an interprofessional group of students from the ETSU Academic Health Sciences Center, help educate healthcare providers about safe prescribing practices.

The national honor comes with a more than $1,000 award, which will assist the group in future outreach efforts.

Melton, meanwhile, received her own award through the organization – the Generation Rx Award of Excellence. The award was established in 2011 to recognize a pharmacist that has demonstrated commitment to the mission of substance abuse education.

Melton’s efforts were further recognized last month when she testified before the United States Congress’ House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

“The subcommittee does an annual hearing on prescription drug abuse and they wanted to hear from people in different states and communities about what they are doing to combat the problem,” Melton said. “(U.S. Rep.) Morgan Griffith submitted my name and I was chosen to be a witness.”

Calling her first-ever experience testifying before Congress “extremely exciting and a little stressful,” Melton said she had five minutes to give an oral presentation to the group during the March 26 hearing.

“I spoke on the need for more education of prescribers, the need for good curricula on chronic pain and addiction in professional healthcare programs, the need for federal funding for all states to interconnect with a national prescription drug monitoring program and the need for all counties in Tennessee and Virginia to have a stationary disposal unit for the community to dispose of old and unused prescription drugs,” Melton said.

She also spoke about access to naloxone and the need for universal insurance coverage of the drug.

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