Pharmacy is the ‘logical place’ to supply naloxone kits, says Community Pharmacy Wales
In its response to a government consultation on expanding access to naloxone, Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) said the community pharmacy is the “logical place” to provide naloxone kits.
The Department of Health and Social Affairs (DHSC) consultation, which closed on September 28, 2021, sought advice on improving access to naloxone in the UK’s four countries by expanding the range of services that can provide naloxone without a prescription.
Naloxone is used as an emergency antidote for overdoses caused by heroin and other opioids, such as methadone, morphine, and fentanyl. Currently, UK pharmacies can provide it without a prescription if they also offer drug addiction treatment services, such as opioid substitution. There are also exceptions to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, which allow for a broader supply of naloxone, and patient group leadership can be used to enable the supply.
Responding to the DHSC’s proposals, CPW – which represents pharmacy owners in Wales – said that there is already a “relationship of trust” between pharmacists and people who inject drugs, as many people use pharmacists to access additional treatments like methadone and / or to collect clean injection equipment.
CPW also highlighted the accessibility of community pharmacies, which open on weekends and often late at night when other health providers and services, such as general practitioner practices, are closed.
The Welsh Government’s annual report on substance abuse, ‘Working together to reduce harm: Annual report on substance abuse and the outlook for 2020’, showed that only 21 of the 4,833 take-home naloxone kits provided in the country Wales via sites registered between April 2019 and March 2020 were provided by community pharmacies.
However, in September 2021, a Welsh government spokesperson said Pharmaceutical journal that he was working with Community Pharmacy Wales “to expand the supply of naloxone to pharmacies that offer the supply of needles and syringes”.
In August 2021, the Office for National Statistics reported that drug abuse deaths in Wales in 2020 fell 9.1% between 2019 and 2020, and were at their lowest since 2014 with 51 , 1 death per million.
In Scotland, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s policy on ‘drug-related deaths and the role of the pharmacy team‘, published in June 2021, called for naloxone to be available at all community pharmacies.
In July 2021, the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce reported that the number of naloxone kits distributed in Scotland had increased “by at least” 31% in 2020 compared to the previous year, and that they could have saved nearly 1,400 lives in 2020.
Later in July 2021, data from National Records of Scotland revealed that the number ofDrug-related deaths in Scotland reached over 1,300 in 2020 – its highest annual number since records began in 1996.
Meanwhile, in England in September 2021, a take-out naloxone pilot project based at community pharmacies in Somerset and Wakefield reported a supply of more than 330 kits to patients in its first year.
ONS data for 2020 shows the North East of England had the highest rate of drug abuse-related deaths in England, with 104.6 deaths per million. The lowest rates were seen in London, at 33.1 deaths per million.
Read more: Pharmacists dispensing non-prescription naloxone may reduce opioid-related deaths, US study finds