Pharmacists and other frontline workers such as paramedics and prison officers could be allowed to supply the overdose treatment naloxone for home use under new plans put out for consultation by the Government today (August 3).
The eight-week consultation seeks views on UK-wide proposals to amend regulations to make the opioid overdose medicine available from a “wider group of people regularly coming into contact with drug users”.
While anyone may administer naloxone to another individual to save their life in an emergency, at present only commissioned drug treatment services, such as pharmacy needle and syringe programmes or methadone clinics, are able to obtain and supply naloxone to patients outside of an emergency without a prescription or other written authorisation.
Temporary legal measures mean that in Scotland no one working for a Government health service can currently be prosecuted for administering naloxone, but these are in place only for as long as the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to disrupt commissioned drug treatment services.
The proposed legislative changes would mean that police officers, prison officers, nurses, paramedics, midwives, pharmacists and homeless outreach services would all be able to hold and supply take-home naloxone in the form of nasal sprays and pre-filled syringes (injectable ampoules are not considered in the consultation).
The consultation, which closes on September 28, follows the Government’s announcement of a new Joint Combating Drug Unit and is set against a backdrop of drug-related deaths doubling in the UK since 2012.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “Drug misuse destroys lives and has a devastating impact on people’s health, their livelihoods and their families.
“To prevent people dying from drug abuse we need to make sure the right treatment and medicines are available, which is why we’re launching this consultation on naloxone today.
“This Government is committed to tackling drug misuse and saving lives, including through our new Joint Combating Drugs Unit and an ambitious new strategy.”
Earlier this summer the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland published a report recommending that naloxone should be available from every community pharmacy to help pharmacy teams combat drug-related harm.