A team from the University of Stirling has been given NHS funding to explore whether community pharmacies could deliver naloxone to patients taking prescription opioids who may be at risk of overdose.
Tessa Parkes, research director at the university’s Salvation Army Centre for Addiction Services and Research will lead the work, funded by NHS Fife, which will involve pharmacists providing intranasal take-home naloxone to patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP).
Naloxone is the emergency antidote for overdoses caused by heroin and other opioids.
In 2011, Scotland introduced a national naloxone programme that supplied more than 46,000 take-home naloxone kits between 2011/2012 and 2017/2018. However, to date the programme has not included people taking prescribed opioid medication for CNCP.
In 2012, 18% of Scotland’s population (949,108 patients) were prescribed opioid medication. Figures obtained by The Pharmaceutical Journal under the Freedom of Information Act show that between April and September 2018, 6,000 patients across Scotland were prescribed high-dose opioids.
In a press release, Parkes said that Scotland has one of the highest rates of opioid overdose mortality in Europe. “Currently, overdose patients are treated with naloxone — an injectable drug which blocks or reverses the effects of opioids — but it isn’t currently widely distributed within the CNCP population”, she added.
Over the next six months, Parkes and colleagues will interview community pharmacists, patients and patients’ family members to explore the feasibility of a community-pharmacy based provision of intranasal take-home naloxone to CNCP patients.