The government wants to give more nurses access to a life-saving drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, in a bid to stem the growing number of drug-related deaths.
A consultation was initiated to change existing regulations to allow a larger group of professionals to hold naloxone and give it to individuals to keep in the event of a future overdose.
“To prevent people from dying of drug addiction, we need to make sure the right treatment and the right drugs are available.”
Currently, while naloxone can be legally administered by anyone in an emergency, its supply is tightly controlled.
Only people working in certain drug treatment services are able to obtain and dispense it without having a prescription or other form of written consent called patient group leadership (PGD).
However, the government wants to argue that all registered nurses would be eligible to hold and administer naloxone, which comes in the form of a pre-filled syringe or nasal spray.
Other groups who would benefit from this right include police officers, prison officers, probation officers, paramedics, midwives and pharmacists.
People working in homeless services and supported accommodation services for drug addicts would also be exempt from the restrictions.
The consultation noted that nurses, paramedics, midwives and pharmacists were all “highly likely to come into contact with people who use opioids at risk of overdosing or who have overdosed.”
However, the only way for them to provide naloxone without a prescription right now was through the use of a DPI. “This requirement can lead to naloxone supply problems: DPIs can be difficult to obtain and they need to be reviewed frequently,” the document adds.
The consultation asks respondents if they agree that registered nurses should be able to ‘provide naloxone to take home without a prescription’ and how likely they are to think nurses would keep stocks of it. drugs and would distribute them if the regulations were changed. .
“The extent of the availability of naloxone therefore varies nationally and depends on the specifics of local agreements”
The government said the aim of its proposals was to help “tackle the record number of drug-related deaths.”
New data released this week by the Office for National Statistics revealed that 4,561 drug poisoning-related deaths were recorded in England and Wales in 2020, which it said was the highest number since records started in 1993 and was 3.8% higher than in 2019.
Almost half of all drug poisoning deaths recorded in 2020 involved an opioid such as heroin, morphine or methadone.
Health and Social Affairs Secretary Sajid Javid said: âDrug abuse destroys lives and has a devastating impact on people’s health, their livelihoods and their families.
“To prevent people from dying of drug addiction, we need to make sure the right treatment and the right drugs are available, which is why we are launching this consultation on naloxone.”
Current regulations allow workers in drug treatment services to distribute naloxone “for the purpose of saving lives in emergencies.”
This means that these workers can provide naloxone, for example, to people who use drugs and their loved ones, managers of homeless homes and shelters, and outreach workers. However, these people cannot then pass the medicine on to others for future use.
“The extent of the availability of naloxone therefore varies nationally and depends on the specifics of local agreements between drug treatment services and other services that are in regular contact with people at risk who use opioids,” like homeless shelters, âthe consultation noted.
The consultation – titled Expanding Access to Naloxone – will run until September 28, 2021. The proposed legislative changes would apply to all countries in the UK.