Louisville’s Our Lady of Peace opens first retail pharmacist-operated, long-acting injection clinic; will mostly treat opioid abuse

                               Insider Louisville photo

Kentucky is again leading the nation in finding ways to combat the opioid epidemic, as Louisville’s Our Lady of Peace has become the nation’s first behavioral health care center to open a retail pharmacist-operated, long-acting injection clinic, Joe Sonka reports for Insider Louisville.

Pharmacists at the clinic will provide monthly shots of long-acting medications to help patients with opioid addiction and schizo-affective disorders, and the director told Sonka that they will soon be able to provide Vivitrol shots to patients who come in with a prescription for it.

Vivitrol is a compound used to thwart addictions to opioids such as heroin. It contains a non-addictive drug that blocks the opioid from attaching to brain receptors, thus blocking its euphoric effects. The long-acting shots remain in a patient’s system for 30 days.

“We’re excited about our new clinic and we’re hoping that we can make a difference in people’s lives who are undergoing addiction,” Steve Cummings, director of the new clinic, told Sonka. “And hopefully that 30 days of sobriety that the Vivitrol shot allows the patient to have will allow them to show up for behavioral health care outpatient therapy sessions sober and alert and more engaged with what they’re trying to do or not do.”

Pharmacists at the clinic will also be able to administer up to six different long-acting anti-psychotic medications for patients with schizo-affective disorders, Sonka reports.

Cummings told Sonka that the monthly shots have greater success in patients with schizo-affective disorders because these patients often stop taking their daily oral medication when their hallucinations subside, which can lead to relapse and hospitalization.

The clinic will also provide immunizations for HPV, tetanus, hepatitis B and other diseases.

Cummings estimated that pharmacists at the new clinic will be able to administer 20 to 25 shots in an eight-hour shift, and that most patients will be receiving Vivitrol.

The clinic will also hire a medication access coordinator, who will help patients and prescribers navigate the “challenges of insurance coverage and reimbursement when it comes to medication-assisted treatment,” Sonka writes.

Sonka explained that one shot of Vivitrol can cost more than $1,000, and though it is covered by Medicaid and certain private insurance companies, obstacles such as prior authorization and frequent denial of claims, often keep patients from getting it.

The coordinator will also help patients schedule accompanying therapy or counseling, make sure they schedule their next injection appointment and will provide follow-up services to make sure they don’t miss appointments.

Our Lady of Peace is part of the KentuckyOne Health system.

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