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Plans for pharmacists to supply take-home naloxone garner strong support

A Department of Health and Social Care (DH) consultation proposing to widen access to take-home naloxone without a prescription in settings such as pharmacies has received “overwhelming” support.

Last year, the DH consulted on letting pharmacists and other professionals such as paramedics, nurses and police officers “hold and give” naloxone in a drive to tackle drug-related deaths.

Respondents to the eight-week consultation were in favour of widening access to naloxone and making it “available in any situation, to people in any profession, where overdose might occur”, the DH wrote in a document published yesterday.

Many respondents “expressed support for pharmacists being able to supply take-home naloxone” due to “pharmacies’ convenient locations and opening hours”, it said.


Read more: Pharmacists could ‘hold and give’ naloxone under proposed law change


The drug, which can reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, is a prescription-only medicine and can currently be administered by anyone during an emergency.

However, only commissioned drug treatment services are currently able to “obtain and supply” naloxone without a prescription or another written authorisation, outside of an emergency.

The DH pledged to publish a full response to the consultation “by the end of this year” and work with the governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales “to examine policy options to take this forward over the next few months”.


Increased access will increase trust


Respondents to the consultation cited pharmacists’ and pharmacy teams’ frequent contact with people who use drugs on a regular basis “through substitute prescribing and needle and syringe programmes” as an additional point in pharmacies’ favour.


Read more: Community pharmacy: the forgotten frontline against drug-related deaths


They felt that “this level of contact can produce trusting relationships between pharmacists and people who use opioids”, thus rendering pharmacies a suitable place to supply naloxone.

The vast majority of respondents (over 80%) agreed that allowing services to supply take-home naloxone without a prescription would help to reduce overdoses and drug-related deaths, according to the DH.

Many respondents argued that naloxone should be made available without prescription “across all possible services”, as people who use opioids “often do not access healthcare through the typical channels”.

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