They feel the need for more training, but downscheduling champion Angelo Pricolo says this shouldn’t be an issue
An online survey of nearly 600 Australian pharmacists run by the National Drug and Alcohol Centre found only one third of participants were confident they could identify appropriate patients and educate them on overdose and naloxone use.
While the majority were willing to be involved in naloxone supply and had positive attitudes towards overdose prevention, less than half (41%) said they were willing to supply naloxone over the counter.
Meanwhile, 81% expressed interest in receiving training about the drug.
“It is essential that pharmacists receive training in how to use naloxone in order to increase their confidence in identifying those who may benefit from naloxone, and enable effective delivery of information to customers about its use,” say the authors.
Needing to identify patients shouldn’t be an issue, says Brunswick pharmacist Angelo Pricolo, who successfully applied to the TGA to have the life-saving medicine naloxone downscheduled to S3.
If someone has overdosed, they won’t the one coming into the pharmacy, he says. “In the majority of cases it is someone in the person’s network getting the drug from the pharmacy.”
The focus of the schedule change was to cater for someone in the network of the person who needs it rather than the person themselves, says Pricolo.
“The idea of making naloxone over the counter was allowing another route or avenue of access,” he says.
However, the survey found most pharmacists were also unable to correctly answer questions on naloxone administration.
More than half of the pharmacists surveyed identified lack of time, training, knowledge and reimbursement as potential barriers for naloxone provision.
There is also another significant barrier to naloxone supply: lack of stock, which Pricolo admits is a “big problem”.
“This is a legacy of the fact that a lot of jurisdictions still haven’t recognised the importance of making naloxone available.
“We can’t expect huge multinationals to run and jump to Australia saying we’re a huge market. We may need to wait until more jurisdictions to sign up before the drug becomes more available,” he says.
Australia is only the second country in the world (after Italy) to make naloxone available over the counter, a move that happened November last year.
See the full survey results here.