Anti-overdose drug to be made available without prescription

Credit: PA

An anti-overdose drug is to be made more widely available in England without a prescription, the government has announced.

The drug, known as naloxone, will be provided by professionals, including nurses, paramedics, police officers and probation workers, for vulnerable people to take home.

Government plans to update legislation will allow the drug to be given to family or friends of known opioid users or an outreach worker for homelessness services.

Opioid-related deaths make up the largest proportion of drug-related deaths across the UK, with an average of 40 a week.

Administering naloxone reverses the effects of an opioid overdose by quickly reversing breathing difficulties, and can be administered by anyone in an emergency.

Until now, the drug could only be legally supplied without a prescription by a drug and alcohol treatment service.

Many police officers and ambulance crews already have supplies of naloxone for emergency use Credit: PA

The move is part of a 10-year plan announced by the government on Monday to “expand and improve the drug and alcohol treatment and recovery workforce”.

Measures include bringing professionals into the sector and developing better training for currently unregulated roles.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “Opioid addiction can ruin lives and is responsible for the largest proportion of drug-related deaths across the UK.

“We are working hard to reduce those numbers by expanding access to naloxone to save the lives of the most vulnerable.”

Justice Minister Edward Argar told the Commons on Monday about 400 prison staff at HMP Parc in Bridgend, South Wales, have been trained to use the anti-opioid medicine after a spate of deaths which are believed to be drug-related.

The move follows an independent review of drugs in 2020 headed by Dame Carol Black, who welcomed the change in legislation.

She said: “I heard first-hand what a lifesaving intervention naloxone is. Widening access to naloxone is key to reducing the number of lives lost to overdose.”

The government’s 10-year strategy also includes more addiction psychiatry training posts and accreditation of training for peer support and drug and alcohol workers.

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