Connect and Collaborate Grant Offers Generation Rx a Boost in the Fight Against Prescription Drug Misuse

By Sydney Seymour
Outreach and Engagement Communications Intern

The opioid epidemic has consistently been making national headlines and with good reason. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and it's estimated that approximately eleven Ohioans die each day from a drug overdose.

With such alarming statistics, it's difficult to imagine how such a large health crisis could be solved. However, for a group of individuals at The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, fighting back against prescription drug misuse is in their mission statement.

Since 2007, Generation Rx has worked to educate individuals of all ages about the dangers of misusing prescription medications. A partnership between The Ohio State University and the Cardinal Health Foundation was established in 2009, and is headed by Dr. Kenneth Hale and Dr. Nicole C. Kwiek within the College of Pharmacy.

Group photo of Generation Rx partners

"Through our partnership with [Cardinal Health] and other partners, we launched a nationwide campaign. The materials that we've crafted to educate people of all different ages about this issue have been used in every state in the country," explained Hale, a clinical professor of Pharmacy Practice and Science.

The vast reach of Generation Rx is extremely encouraging to both Hale and Kwiek, who are deeply committed to fighting the prescription drug misuse epidemic; however, the growth of the program posed some issues.

"One of the things we've always been constrained by is that we can only be at so many events and leading so many things," said Kwiek, a clinical associate professor of Pharmacology and director of undergraduate studies.

Expansion through Connect and Collaborate Grants Program

For Generation Rx, the Connect and Collaborate Grants program offered an opportunity to expand their education efforts as well as the chance to include a greater number of dedicated individuals.

"We were a part of the first round of this new Connect and Collaborate process. At first, we were not sure; it was different. It wasn't the typical academic proposal process," explained Hale.

Despite the initial uncertainty, Hale and Kwiek decided to continue with the application process. Kwiek explained the major turning point was when they discovered one of their potential funders was OSU Extension, a former partner of Generation Rx. "And immediately, the 'connect' part of [Connect and Collaborate] made sense, and of course this would work with OSU Extension," Kwiek said.

Resurrecting the partnership with OSU Extension convinced Hale and Kwiek that the Connect and Collaborate grant program could greatly benefit their work with Generation Rx.

"[It] made us think about our program a little bit differently," Hale said. "And it ended up with a very robust partnership between Extension, Kroger Pharmacy, Cardinal Health, Outreach and Engagement and us. Honestly, this year, it's one of our points of pride in the college."

As part of the Connect and Collaborate grant program, Generation Rx has piloted OPEP – the Opioid Patient Education Program – at eight Kroger Pharmacy locations in Southeast Ohio.

"If we can do a better job educating patients when they get these drugs at the pharmacy, it should be a game changer, because that's where the opioid epidemic typically starts," Hale explained.

Through OPEP, Generation Rx supplies pharmacists with a checklist of educational activities to engage individuals who receive new opioid prescriptions. Hale disclosed that during the OPEP pilot there were over 1,000 patient interactions, which gives him high hopes for the program. "We think that if pharmacists across the country systematically do that, it can make a big difference."

Generation Rx realizes that prescription misuse doesn't necessarily start in adulthood; individuals can become susceptible at an early age as well. The second aspect of Generation Rx's Connect and Collaborate program seeks to combat this with a K-12 educational initiative.

Through the grant, more than 300 Kroger pharmacists have been trained in the use of Generation Rx materials and how to talk to audiences of varying ages. OSU Extension then joins this partnership between the pharmacists and the local schools, and an online "Collaborate" portal facilitates these interactions as well.

Kwiek has already seen the positive effects of these education partnerships. She explained that the Kroger pharmacists are talking about their involvement in the schools and "are visibly excited."

Making a Difference with Students

Generation Rx students

Generation Rx is not just a group of pharmacy professionals; it's also an opportunity for Ohio State students to apply their studies to the opioid epidemic. The Generation Rx Collaborative is a student organization within the College of Pharmacy.

Emily Spencer is a Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate and Co-President of Generation Rx and credits the organization with establishing the basis for her future career.

"A big part of my job will be counseling patients on medication safety and the misuse and abuse of prescription medications. Generation Rx has provided me with the foundation needed to effectively communicate and portray our mission of safe medication practices for life," Spencer explained.

As shown by their work with Kroger Pharmacy, Generation Rx strives to actively and effectively engage the pharmacy community on issues of prescription misuse. However, Kwiek explained that prescription drug safety is only part of the solution to the opioid epidemic.

"Stigma is such a part of this [issue]. How do we get the public to better understand that addiction is a disease and not a moral failing? This is a disease that warrants treatment," Kwiek said.

Changing society's perception of prescription drug misuse is slowly becoming possible for Generation Rx. The Connect and Collaborate grant has laid the groundwork for a continuing partnership between OSU Extension, Kroger Pharmacy and Generation Rx to address the scope, causes and consequences of prescription drug misuse and the stigma that surrounds this serious public health dilemma in the United States.

As Kwiek put it, "Through the build of this partnership model, we're promoting safe medicine use by Ohioans and beyond. We believe this will be a sustainable and effective conduit to share information about any medication-related issue."


Program website: https://www.generationrx.org 

Contact: Ken Hale, hale.3@osu.edu; Nicole Kwiek, kwiek.1@osu.edu; Generation Rx, info@generationrx.org