Naloxone, which can be effective in reversing heroin overdoses, is, from the 1 October 2015, more readily available for those that need it. Although naloxone will remain a prescription only medicine, the legislative change will crucially mean people working in drug treatment services are able to supply the drug, without a prescription, to anyone needing it to stop a heroin overdose. In addition to previous legislation, from 1 October 2015:
Naloxone can be supplied by a drug treatment service to any individual needing it for saving a life in an emergency.
So it can be supplied without prescription to:
- someone who is using or has previously used opiates (illicit or prescribed) and is at potential risk of overdose
- a carer, family member or friend liable to be on hand in case of overdose
- a named individual in a hostel (or other facility where drug users gather and might be at risk of overdose), which could be
- a manager or other staff
There is no need for the usual Prescription Only Medicine requirements, just a requirement that the supply is suitably recorded.
Public Health England has previously issued advice for commissioners of services on how naloxone can be supplied locally and further information about the legislation change can be found here.
Public Health England have published their advice to local authorities and others on promoting the wider availability of the overdose medicine naloxone.
The paper sets out the current position on supplying naloxone saying that it can be prescribed to anyone who is: currently using illicit opiates (such as heroin); receiving an opioid substitution therapy; leaving prison with a history of drug use; those who have previously taken opiates (in order to prevent relapse).
Equally importantly, if the person who has been supplied naloxone agrees then it can also be supplied to family members, carers, peers and friends.
They do warn that:
Regardless of how naloxone is provided locally, information on the risks of overdose and how to respond in an emergency should be available to all those at risk, their carers and families, and staff.
Freedom of Information requests by NAG England members, Release and the National Needle Exchange Forum, show that one in three local authorities are currently providing take-home naloxone.
Changes to the regulations which will make it even easier to make naloxone more widely available are being drafted by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and will come into force in October 2015. PHE suggest that the new regulations will mean “naloxone is made exempt from prescription only medicine requirements when it is supplied by a drug service commissioned by a local authority or NHS.”
The paper includes steps that local authorities or others interested in making naloxone more widely available may wish to take, based on the experience of Birmingham which has had a take-home scheme since 2012. There is also: an outline of the issues that need to be covered in training in overdose prevention; advice on recording how naloxone is supplied; and a reminder that naloxone is just one way to reduce drug related deaths.
Download the paper here.
This post first appeared on DrugScope’s blog.