Opioid overdose deaths in England have risen by 32% in 2013, as reported by the Office for National Statistics. Urgent action is needed to ensure that overdose deaths return to the previous downward trend.
This rise in deaths occurred only in England – Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland already have a national take home naloxone programmes which have contributed to deaths remaining static in Wales and falling in Scotland.
Naloxone is already licensed for use in the treatment of suspected acute opioid overdose or intoxication and it is being used effectively in a number of local authority areas in England, but there are many where plans are unclear or undeveloped meaning there is a marked variation in access across the country.
In May 2012 the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) reviewed the availability of naloxone in the UK and recommended to the government that it should be more widely available to tackle the high numbers of fatal opioid overdoses. ACMD advised that the Government should ease the restrictions on who can be supplied with naloxone and should investigate how people supplied with naloxone can be suitably trained to administer it in an emergency and respond to overdoses.
The government have now responded to this recommendation and have said that new regulations are being prepared by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which will come into effect in October 2015.
We call on:
- The MHRA to publish their draft regulations on naloxone now.
- The Department of Health to implement a national programme to ensure that take-home naloxone is made available to those vulnerable to opioid overdose, as well as those likely to be present, such as family members and carers.
- Public Health England to make every effort to encourage local authority areas to make the availability of naloxone and accompanying training a priority, and to monitor and report on activity.
- For public health teams in local authorities to commission services in line with the recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the ACMD on the community management of overdose. For example, the World Health Organisation (WHO) have specifically recommended that people likely to witness an opioid overdose should have access to naloxone and be instructed in its administration to enable them to use it for the emergency management of suspected opioid overdose.
- Action on Addiction
- Blenheim CDP
- Brighton Oasis Project
- Bristol Drug Project
- B3 – Brent Service User Council
- Crawley Exact
- Herefordshire Family Drug Support
- Homeless Link
- International Doctors for Healthier Drug Policies (IDHDP)
- International Drug Policy Consortium
- Kenward Trust
- National Needle Exchange Forum (NNEF)
- Nottingham CDP
- Service User Strategy 4 Self Empowerment & Development (SUSSED (Bedford))
- Skills Consortium
- Stepping Stones (Luton)
- Substance Misuse Management in General Practice (SMMGP)
- Telford Aftercare Team (TACT)
- UK Recovery Walk
- United Kingdom Harm Reduction Alliance (UKHRA)
- Wolverhampton Drug Service User Involvement Team
If you would like to be a signatory to this call for action please let us know