‘Pharmacists are in a unique position to recommend naloxone.’

The Pharmacy Guild’s Tasmanian branch has called for an expansion of the free take-home naloxone trial to community pharmacies

A new trial of free take-home naloxone commenced in Tasmania late last month, to help combat opioid-related overdoses across the state.

“We know that the accidental misuse of prescription medication and illegal opioid use is a major cause of overdose, leading to hospitalisation and death, and that one of the most effective ways to prevent such overdoses is access to the drug naloxone,” said Jeremy Rockliff, Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing.

“Naloxone is a fast-acting medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdose. It is safe to use, and side effects are rare,” explained Minister Rockliff in his announcement.

Since February last year, naloxone has been available in the form of an easy-to-use nasal spray called Nyxoid.

The trial is available through primary Needle and Syringe Program providers across the State, however the Tasmanian Branch of the Pharmacy Guild has this week called for it to be expanded to community pharmacies.

Branch President John Dowling applauded the intervention.

“Accidental misuse of prescription medication and illegal opioid use is a major contributing factor to overdose resulting in hospitalisation and death,” he said.

“Access to naloxone is one of the most effective ways to preventing opioid-related overdoses; however, while the drug has been available for some time now, broader awareness of its effectiveness is still low.”

Mr Dowling said he was encouraged by Minister Rockliff’s approach to naloxone and believes the trial should be expanded across community pharmacies in Tasmania to improve access and knowledge.

“Pharmacists are in a unique position to recommend naloxone to people who may be at risk of overdose, including people who are users of the community pharmacy Needle and Syringe Program, and people taking prescribed opiate medications,” he said.

“As well, it is important to educate not only those who are at risk but people who are friends, partners or relatives of those who may be at risk of an overdose and pharmacists are able to provide education on the use and administration of the product.”

Mr Dowling reiterated that naloxone was available by a PBS-subsidised prescription or over the counter from community pharmacies and encouraged people to discuss this lifesaving medication with their pharmacist or GP.

The take-home naloxone trial is part of the Tasmanian Government’s commitment to keeping Tasmanians safe as it addresses the impacts of COVID-19, said Minister Rockliff.

“The impact of COVID-19 will be far reaching and that is why the Government has invested $4 million in Mental Health initiatives including for alcohol and drug services such as $250,000 to adapt the State’s pharmacotherapy program.”

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