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  • naloxone sign at pharmacy

    Developing and enhancing training in the city and state regarding naloxone use for opioid overdose reversals is among the goals of The PREMIER Center.

  • pharmacist at computer

    Prescription monitoring programs, such as the online Texas PMP, gives prescribers and pharmacists access to a patient’s controlled substance prescription history.

  • cdc graphic on opioid prescribing

The Center's goals are aimed at training and educating practitioners and students across the health care continuum, with a focus on pharmacists and pharmacy students, on issues of prescription drug misuse, addiction, dependence, and pain management.

Pharmacist Continuing Education

The PREMIER Center will work with professional organizations and content experts to develop CE programs focused on prescription drug misuse issues and regulatory requirements. The Center offers robust educational programming that cover topics related to prescription drug misuse, opioid use disorder and other topics that meet the educational needs of pharmacists in all practice areas. Beginning in 2019, Texas pharmacists will be required to participate in continuing education related to pain management and prescribing and monitoring of prescription controlled substances.

Current Offerings:

"Opioid Stewardship" (UAN: 0156-9999-23-017-H08-P; Credit Hours: 1.0/0.1 CEUs), expires 03/13/2026, Presenter: Elisabeth Wang, Pharm.D., BCPP, Clinical Assistant Professor, UHCOP

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"Chronic Pain Management: Non-Opioid Therapies" (UAN: 0156-9999-23-018-H08-P; Credit Hours: 1.0/0.1 CEUs), expires 03/13/2026, Presenters: Randa Al-Saadi, Pharm.D., and Harshil Patel, Pharm.D.

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"Loperamide: The Unexpected Player in the Opioid Epidemic" (UAN:0156-9999-23-016-H08-P; Credit Hours: 1.0/0.1 CEUs), expires 03/13/2026, Presenter: Austin De La Cruz, Pharm.D., BCPP, Clinical Associate Professor, UHCOP

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"It’s Benzo Long Time Coming: Evaluating the Risks of Benzodiazepine Use" (UAN: 0156-9999-21-045-H08-P; Credit Hours: 1.0/0.1 CEUs), expires April 23, 2024, Presenter: Austin De La Cruz, Pharm.D., BCPP, Clinical Assistant Professor, UHCOP

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"Opioids and Cardiovascular Disease" (UAN: 0156-9999-21-044-H08-P; Credit Hours: 1.0/0.1 CEUs), expires April 23, 2024, Presenter: Elisabeth M. Sulaica, Pharm.D., BCCP, Clinical Assistant Professor, UHCOP

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Student Training and Research

Although issues such as misuse, diversion and other aspects of controlled substance prescriptions have been part of the college's Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) curriculum for decades, the "pharmacy academy" has made student education on these and emerging issues a national priority. In June 2016, UH College of Pharmacy announced its commitment to a new initiative led by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy to prioritize student education on misuse prevention.

An example of the college's commitment is by providing travel awards for students to attend the American Pharmacists Association Institute on Alcoholism & Drug Dependencies, an annual multiday program of workshops, panel discussions and other activities in Utah for students to better understand issues of addiction/dependencies, learn tools and strategies for recovery, and develop programs for implementation on campuses. Funding for future student attendance will be provided through The PREMIER Center.

In addition, students in the college's Pharmaceutical Health Outcomes and Policy Concentration of the Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences degree program and the Pharm.D. degree program will be actively engaged in research projects undertaken by center member faculty investigators.

Professional Resource

Center researchers serve as a valuable resource for practitioners, policymakers, educators and other stakeholders on issues related to controlled substance prescription misuse and prevention. Among their upcoming or most recent presentations:

  • March 2023, Douglas Thornton (Invited Speaker): "Ending the Opioid Crisis with Schools," South by Southwest Education (SXSW EDU) 2023
  • July 2022, Douglas Thornton (Invited Speaker): "Research Across the Controlled Substance Continuum of Care in Texas," Houston Fentanyl Summit 2022
  • July 2022, Douglas Thornton (Invited Speaker): "Mentoring Matters: The Whys and Hows of Improving our Mentorship Abilities," American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy 2022 Annual Meeting
  • June 2022, Douglas Thornton (Presenter): "Introduction to Research Ethics," 2022 Cougar Health Research Academy
  • May 2022, Douglas Thornton (Invited Speaker): "Opioid Epidemic & Pharmacy’s Role: Research from the PREMIER Center," Texas Pharmacy Congress Spring 2022 Meeting
  • May 2022, Douglas Thornton (Invited Speaker): "Preparing for the Texas Opioid Abatement Fund Council Submissions," Lifespan Prevention Epidemiological Workgroup (L-PEW) Region 6
  • July 2021, Douglas Thornton (Invited Presenter): "Managing Pain With and Without Medications (Continuing Education)," 2021 Texas Pharmacy Association Conference and Expo
  • July 2021, Callie Downs (Student Presentation): "Expanding Pediatric Vaccination Services in Community Pharmacies," 2021 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Annual Conference
  • June 2021, Douglas Thornton (Invited Remarks): Session 1: The Current Landscape for In-Home Opioid Disposal with Raulerson P (Food and Drug Administration), Bartz-Overman C (Washington State Department of Health), and Nicholson K (National Association of Chain Drug Stores), Duke-Margolis Workshop for the Food and Drug Administration: Exploring Options for Safe and Effective In-Home Opioid Disposal
  • June 2021, Matthew Wanat (Chair and Moderator): "Increasing the Safety and Quality of Opioid Prescribing," 2021 Academy Health Annual Research Meeting (virtual)
  • April 2021, Douglas Thornton (Presenter): "Pharmacy-Level Access to Buprenorphine for Opioid Use Disorder," 2021 National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit
  • April 2021, Danielle Campbell (Project Manager): "Opioid Abuse Starts at Home: How an At-Home Drug Deactivation & Disposal Campaign Can Effectively Fight the Crisis in Your Community," 2021 National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit
  • March 2021, Douglas Thornton: "Colleagues in Research: Pharmacy Practice and Research Implications of COVID-19," 2021 American Pharmacist Association Annual Meeting
  • February 2021, Douglas Thornton (Invited Guest Lecture): "Health Services & Outcomes Research in Pharmacy Academia," West Virginia University School of Pharmacy PHAR 836: Research in the Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • December 2020, Vaishnavi Tata (Student Presentation): "Feasibility of Community Prevention Organizations in Promoting Prescription Medication Disposal," AcademyHealth Conference on the Dissemination and Implementation in Health December 2020
  • October 2020, Shweta Bapat (Student Presentation): "Investigating prescriber beliefs regarding buprenorphine in outpatient settings: A qualitative study," American Public Health Association 2020 Annual Meeting
  • October 2020, Tyler Varisco (Student Presentation): "Partners in prevention: Identifying community pharmacies as sites for intervention," American Public Health Association 2020 Annual Meeting
  • October 2020, Douglas Thornton (Invited Presenter): "Disposal 365: Making Prescription Drug Takeback Day Every Day," White House Round Table Hosted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)
  • September 2020, Matthew Wanat: "Multimodal pain management in the intensive care unit: a debate" Society of Critical Care Medicine Texas Chapter 9th Annual Symposium
  • August 2020, Douglas Thornton (Invited Presenter): "Safe Drug Disposal in Texas: Adapting to COVID-19," Collaborative for Effective Prescription Opioid Policies (CEPOP)- Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse (MAPDA) Policy Webinar on COVID-19 and the Opioid Epidemic
  • July 2020, Douglas Thornton (Invited Presenter): "COVID-19 Modifications to Prescription Drug Misuse Prevention Projects," Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s COVID- 19: Substance Use Services Informational Updates
  • July 2020, Matthew Wanat (roundtable facilitator): "Discussion of Didactic, Co-curricular, and Other Novel Activities to Prepare Students to Have a Positive Impact on Patients with Opioid Use Disorder," AACP Virtual Pharmacy Education 2020 
  • July 2020, Douglas Thornton and Matthew Wanat: "Evaluation of a Substance Use Disorder Educational Event for Doctor of Pharmacy Students," AACP Virtual Pharmacy Education 2020
  • July 2020, Douglas Thornton and Vaishnavi Tata (Ph.D. candidate): "Untangling the Web of Clinical Decision Making Using PDMPs: A Vignette-Based Learning Experience," AACP Virtual Pharmacy Education 2020
  • April 2020, Tyler Varisco (Ph.D. candidate): "Searching for an Answer: Identifying Disparities by Analyzing Linked PDMP Query and Fill Data," 2020 National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit (virtual)
  • April 2020, Adil MQ, De La Cruz A, Thornton JD, Wanat MA. "Incidence of Chronic Opioid Use in Previously Opioid-Naïve Patients Receiving Opioids for Analgesia in the Intensive Care Unit. Fed Pract. 2020 Apr;37(4):170-176. PMID: 32322148; PMCID: PMC7173643
  • October 2019, Flajc G, Rascon K, Nguyen EA, Kabbani R, Dela Pena J, De La Cruz A. "The Impact of Pharmacy Student-Led Opioid Overdose Prevention and Response Education,” Poster Presented at the 2019 Annual AACP Meeting
  • April 2019, Douglas Thornton: "Establishing the Community Pharmacist’s Role in Prescription Opioid Misuse Prevention," 2019 National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, Atlanta, GA
  • April 2019, Austin De La Cruz: “An Update on the New Synthetic Drugs of Abuse,” Texas Society of Health System Pharmacists 2018 Annual Seminar, Frisco, TX
  • January 2019, Douglas Thornton: "Opioid Misuse in Texas," Opioid Prescription Drug Abuse Seminar, Beaumont, TX
  • July 2018, Douglas Thornton: "Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Impact on the Medical Communities in Texas," Houston Opioid Summit, Council on Recovery, Houston, TX

Media Coverage

Center researchers also serve as a resource for news and other media outlets to provide insights into various aspects of opioid and prescription drug misuse, treatments, policies and practices. Recent external media coverage includes: 

Institutional Collaboration

Furthermore, the center will be a key driver of collaborative research with other institutions in the Texas Medical Center, Greater Houston Area, and the State of Texas through the collaborations with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

One example of The PREMIER Center's institutional collaboration is its co-sponsorship of the Houston Medication Safety Symposium with UH College of Pharmacy's PHOP department and UTHealth McGovern School of Medicine.

Past symposia have featured nationally recognized speakers, poster/podium presentations, and professional networking opportunities to develop solutions and share information among attending health outcomes and public health researchers, physicians and other prescribers, pharmacists and other health professionals.