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 Douglas Thornton - New

APhA Generation Rx Award

Thornton Earns National Honor for Opioid Misuse Prevention, Reduction Work

University of Houston College of Pharmacy (UHCOP) Associate Professor Douglas Thornton, Pharm.D. Ph.D., BCPS, has been on the forefront of statewide efforts to gain control of the scourge that has devastated families and communities across Texas and beyond. For his extensive efforts, Thornton is being honored with the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) 2024 Generation Rx Award, which will be formally presented at the APhA Annual Meeting & Expo March 22-25 in Orlando, Fla.

Thornton is director of the UHCOP Prescription Drug Misuse Education and Research (PREMIER) Center, which serves as a source for professional education, research expertise, and outreach services across Texas and the U.S.

He was awarded grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Texas Health and Human Services Commission (THHSC), and the National Institutes of Health. These multiple projects span community-facing interventions, training programs for professional pharmacy and medical students, evaluation of national prescription drug misuse trends, and assessment of adverse consequences related to opioid use.

Educating Pharmacists

Thornton has endeavored to educate pharmacists about prescription drug misuse prevention by leading a team who have created numerous free live and home-study continuing education (CE) programs, which has helped meet CE requirements that many state boards of pharmacy have implemented. The PREMIER Center provided over 7,200 hours of CE to more than 3,500 individual pharmacists.

Helping to prevent the non-medical use of controlled substance prescription medications has been one of Thornton’s largest projects to date. As part of the SAMHSA/THHSC-funded projects, the Texas Improved Dissemination and Evaluation of Single-use Disposal Systems (TIDES) is aimed at improving – and saving -- the lives of Texans by preventing the non-medical use of prescription medications.

Statewide Outreach

One of the several objectives of TIDES includes collaborations with and education of local community prevention groups, first responders, hospitals, pharmacies, and physicians’ offices to distribute Single-Use Disposal Systems in 788 locations across the state of Texas, allowing patients to safely and at no-cost dispose of unused medications from home via a mail-back envelope. Over 450,000 single-use disposal systems have been distributed to date in over 1,000 events facilitated by this project that were attended by over 100,000 Texans.

While Thornton has achieved many accolades for his work, he is also revered as the subject-matter expert on opioid use disorders.

Thornton is the only pharmacist among the 13 voting appointees on the Texas Opioid Abatement Fund Council, housed within the Texas Comptroller’s Office for Public Accounts, to ensure opioid settlement agreement funds are appropriately distributed to support quality programs to remediate the opioid crisis. Thornton represents the council’s Region 3, which includes Harris and surrounding counties.

“Dr. Thornton has been a key collaborator on several opioid stewardship studies with Texas Medical Center institutions to study interventions such as electronic medical record changes, patient and provider education, and best practice alerts to reduce unnecessary opioid prescribing in high-risk surgical and ICU patients,” said colleague Matthew A. Wanat, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCCP, FCCM, a UHCOP clinical associate professor and assistant director of The PREMIER Center.

National Presence

At APhA2023, he was the invited speaker for a national policy webinar, “Community Collaboration: Opioid Settlement for Pharmacists” and co-presenter for “Opioid Risk Mitigation Strategies: What Do Patients and Providers Want and Where Can Pharmacists Intervene?” At APhA2021, he was the keynote speaker for “Colleagues in Research: Pharmacy Practice and Research Implications of COVID-19.” Through the PREMIER Center, he has supported travel for UHCOP faculty and students to the APhA Institute on Substance Use Disorders and provided valuable career advice as an invited speaker for the APhA-ASP Region 6 Midyear Regional Meeting in 2017. 

Additionally, Thornton and his team’s work on chronic prescription opioid use predicting stabilization on opioid use disorder treatment has been cited in the 2022 CDC Opioid Prescribing Guidelines. He has successfully published 57 articles in various peer-reviewed journals and been invited to speak over 20 times nationally to audiences including the Office of National Drug Control Policy within the White House, several SAMHSA National Policy Forums, and FDA Policy Workshops.

“Dr. Thornton is an identified expert in prescription drug misuse prevention and treatment with significant contributions that should be recognized and serve as an inspiration of how much impact a pharmacist can have on the community and beyond,” said colleague Bernadette Asias-Dinh, Pharm.D., BCACP, BCPS, CDCES, a UHCOP clinical associate professor.