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Pharmacists should have greater input into naloxone service in Scotland

Heroin drug abuse

Source: Elliot Burlingham/

Naloxone can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose

A programme that provides potent opioid antagonist naloxone to patients at risk of over dose should have greater involvement of community pharmacists, recommends an independent evaluation of the service commissioned by the Scottish government.

Started in November 2010, the programme involves distributing prescription-only naloxone through a patient group direction (PGD), with recipients and carers trained in how to administer the drug. PGDs provide a legal framework for registered health professionals to supply prescription-only medicines to predefined groups of patients without them having to see a doctor.  

The service evaluation looked at how the programme is being implemented in the 13 NHS boards in Scotland that offer the service.

The programme is reaching an estimated 8% of its target population in Scotland. In interviews, patients say the programme increases their sense of empowerment and awareness of techniques to save lives, including first aid and resuscitation.

Only six NHS boards use community pharmacies to supply naloxone and the evaluation says that “being unable to access supplies [of naloxone] through the community pharmacy network in some areas has been identified as a problem”.

The researchers also recommend GPs become more involved in the programme; extending staff training; and exploring ways to increase use of naloxone among people being released from prison and those in rural areas.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11138918

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