Experts on heroin use are concerned that drug users and their families in England are being denied access to a life-saving medicine: naloxone, an antidote to heroin overdoses.
The Office for National Statistics have reported that opioid overdose deaths in England have risen by 32% in 2013. Naloxone Action Group England (NAG) are calling for urgent action to ensure that overdose deaths return to the previous downward trend.
There is nothing to prevent those at risk of opiate overdose being prescribed naloxone now, and yet over 50% of local authorities, who are now responsible for commissioning drug treatment in England, do not currently provide it. Scotland and Wales both have national programmes, which are successfully reducing the number of opiate overdoses in those countries.
In May 2012 the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (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.
John Jolly, Chair of NAG England, said:
“Local authorities in England can already take action to ensure that take home naloxone is made available in their area. But too many areas are failing to provide this life saving medicine and urgent action is needed to ensure wider access for those at risk of overdose, their peers, and families. That is why we are calling for the government to introduce a national programme as there is in the rest of the UK.”
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