News in Brief - April 2019

AACP Article

Ole Miss Professors Receive Grants to Fight Opioids

Dr. David Colby, professor at The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, received a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to develop new treatments for addressing the opioid crisis. Colby hopes to develop a therapy for drug addiction by studying the medicinal chemistry of certain compounds that can lower the anxiety some patients experience when withdrawing from an addiction. Dr. Jason Paris, assistant professor of pharmacology, received a separate NIDA grant to combat opioids’ harmful effects on the HIV-infected brain.

“My research group is developing molecules that may have potential use in the treatment of drug addiction,” said Colby, associate professor of medicinal chemistry in the Department of BioMolecular Sciences. “This work is critical in the context of the mission of NIDA at the National Institutes of Health because of the impact of the opioid epidemic in the United States.” Through this research, Colby’s lab discovered a new class of compounds that have the potential to treat addiction more effectively than existing therapies.

Paris, who also teaches in the Department of BioMolecular Sciences, said the idea behind the grant he received is to find potential ways to target the damage caused by the central infection. “People who are dependent on opioids and are also HIV-positive are at risk for developing AIDS and have a quicker decline in brain health. We are working to find natural compounds that can reverse this.”

HIV infections and opioid abuse tend to be found together, since intravenous drug practices, such as those associated with heroin, can transmit the disease. Moreover, even HIV patients who don’t abuse drugs are more likely to experience chronic pain and be prescribed opioids. This has researchers such as Paris looking for new therapies that can work with HIV medications to decrease some of the most negative effects of opioid use in those with the disease.

MCW Clinics Offer Healthcare Services in Underserved Communities

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) School of Pharmacy launched MCW Neighborhood Partners, a pharmacist-led, community-based health screening and care referral service in Milwaukee, with its first location that opened this March. The program was developed in collaboration with founding community partner Next Door, an early childhood education and social service organization. Services will include health and wellness screenings, health promotion, disease prevention, nutrition counseling and patient health assessments.

MCW President and CEO Dr. John R. Raymond, Sr., and his wife, Maggie, provided the initial impetus for the concept for MCW Neighborhood partners last fall through a gift of $525,000 to establish the Community Health and Service Learning Fund. MCW Neighborhood Partners’ locations will be fully staffed by School of Pharmacy students and faculty members. Dominika Krynicka, class of 2020, was the first student pharmacist selected to participate in a clinical rotation at MCW Neighborhood Partners. She volunteered to administer health screenings to community members at the Next Door Walk for Children in May 2018 and the event inspired her to become more involved in the Milwaukee community. She gained a valuable skill set working with faculty and staff assisting in the development of protocols, documentation software and processes to assist in health screenings.

“Working with underserved patients had pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and to learn to empathize with individuals who think and live differently than I do,” she said. “This has been valuable in growing my patient education style and ability to customize patient interactions.”

Students can be forces for change in the communities they serve, said Dr. Michael DeBisschop, a MCW School of Pharmacy professor involved with the clinic. “Our students have the knowledge and training necessary to perform physical assessments and screening tests as well as to deliver education to help prevent and treat disease. Pharmacists can also administer immunizations, answer questions about managing medications and help patients find the most affordable and effective options.”

The program has the potential to decrease negative health outcomes that are a direct result of treatable diseases in medically underserved areas. “Our goal is to work toward eliminating health disparities by providing enhanced care for patients close to home and from a provider they trust: the pharmacist,” noted Dr. George E. MacKinnon III, founding dean of the MCW School of Pharmacy.