Consideration of Naloxone
In May 2012 the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) released their report and advice to government on naloxone. The purpose of the report was to provide Government with advice on whether naloxone should be made more widely available, in order to prevent future drug-related deaths, and help engage and educate those most vulnerable of suffering an opioid overdose.
- The ACMD has been considering the issue of naloxone availability and provision, as an intervention to prevent drug-related deaths, since 2009 and has previously written to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) concerning provision.
- Naloxone is a safe, efficacious drug for reversing the effects of opioid overdoses. This report provides advice to the Government concerning the evidence and issue of making naloxone more widely available.
- In the UK, there are hundreds of deaths related to heroin use every year and a lesser number due to the abuse of other opioids. Preventing drug-related deaths has been, and continues to be a priority for the Government. Naloxone is already used by emergency services personnel to reverse heroin and other opioid overdoses. In 2005, naloxone was made available under UK law to be administered by anyone for the purpose of saving a life. However, naloxone remains a prescription-only drug, and is only licensed for use in injectable form. This means that at present it is not able to be distributed to anyone without a named prescription.
- Because it is prescription-only, non-medical services which may experience frequent opiate-related overdoses are not able to legally hold stocks of naloxone to use in an emergency.
- There is evidence that take-home naloxone, given to service users and training carers or peers in how to administer naloxone, can be effective at reversing heroin overdoses. Wider provision of naloxone could result in a reduction in overall drug-related deaths in the UK.
- The ACMD believe that the single intervention of wider provision of naloxone is not sufficient in efforts to prevent future drug-related deaths. The Council considers itself aligned with UK and worldwide research that indicates that training service users, peers and carers in all aspects of how to respond to an overdose is important alongside naloxone provision.
- Scotland has already made provisions to make naloxone more widely available, through its 2011 Lord Advocate’s Guideline. This promotes the availability of naloxone to approved services without prescription, for use in an emergency. It also protects medical professionals supplying naloxone in cases of liability.
- Recommendation 1: Naloxone should be made more widely available, to tackle the high numbers of fatal opioid overdoses in the UK.
- Recommendation 2: Government should ease the restrictions on who can be supplied with naloxone.
- Recommendation 3: Government should investigate how people supplied with naloxone can be suitably trained to administer it in an emergency and respond to overdoses.