A national service providing emergency access to supplies of naloxone from community pharmacies in Scotland is to begin in October 2023.
A Scottish government circular, published on 12 September 2023, said that the naloxone emergency supply service will be added to the community pharmacy public health service from 30 October 2023.
The final report from the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce, published in July 2022, recommended that all community pharmacies should hold naloxone for administration in an emergency and be able to supply take-home naloxone to people who use drugs, families and anyone else likely to witness an opioid overdose.
An interim report by the taskforce, published in June 2021, revealed that almost 1,400 lives may have been saved through the use of take-home naloxone kits in 2020.
The government circular says that take-home naloxone via pharmacies “will be a later phase” of its programme, but did not give a timescale for this.
In March 2023, community pharmacy contractors were each paid £240 for the purchase of two naloxone kits and to contribute towards training costs, ahead of the forthcoming naloxone service being launched in May 2023.
Contractors have since been told that pharmacy teams should complete the e-learning module on naloxone emergency supply provided by NHS Education for Scotland, and that two webinars for pharmacy teams will run in October and November 2023.
Figures published by the National Records of Scotland on 22 August 2023 show that opiates and opioids, including heroin, morphine and methadone, were implicated in more than eight out of ten drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2022.
Scottish government data, published on 12 September 2023, show that there were 600 suspected drug deaths during the first six months of 2023, which is 7% (n=38) higher than during the same period of 2022.
Commenting on the Scottish government’s announcement, Laura Wilson, director of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Scotland, said: “This new service is a really important step to support the role of community pharmacy teams in reducing harm and preventing drugs deaths.
“The RPS has been calling on the Scottish government to ensure naloxone is made available from every community pharmacy, and the announcement of this new national service for emergency stockholding is extremely welcome.”
Wilson added that it was critical that pharmacy teams had time and space to undertake training to fully support them to deliver the service.
A statement from Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) said the service would “support a significant increase in access to naloxone so that it can be used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose”.
“It once again sees community pharmacy at the heart of the community, delivering care for the citizens of Scotland,” CPS added.