Almost all respondents to a UK-wide consultation believed that allowing pharmacists to provide a supply of ‘take-home’ naloxone without a prescription would help reduce overdoses and drug-related deaths.

This comes as part of a wider consultation, launched by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), which looked into changing a law that would mean naloxone could be supplied without a prescription by roles such as pharmacists, nurses and police officers.

Naloxone is a treatment that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and prevent drug-related death.

The drug is currently only available in England and Wales on prescription and then can be administered by anyone during an emergency.

In a report on the six-week consultation, published this week (15 March), DHSC said that of 704 responses, 95% agreed that if pharmacists were able to supply take-home naloxone without a prescription this would help prevent overdoses and deaths.

Some of the respondents made reference to pharmacies’ ‘convenient locations’ and opening hours, DHSC said.

They also said that support for pharmacists supplying the drug was because ‘teams already see people who use drugs on a regular basis through substitute prescribing and needle and syringe programmes’.

Some respondents also felt that this level of contact could lead to more ‘trusting relationships between pharmacists and people who use opioids’.

Meanwhile, 96% of pharmacists who responded to the survey said they would keep a stock of and supply naloxone if the regulations were changed such that they were eligible to do so.

Other respondents to the consultation include charities, NHS trusts and drug treatment service providers.

In Scotland, naloxone is currently freely available at all pharmacies in Edinburgh that deliver injecting equipment provision services.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in Scotland has previously called for naloxone to be made available in every pharmacy across Scotland, and for all pharmacy staff to be trained in using it.

The recommendation came as part of RPS’s new policy document— published last month — which addresses pharmacy’s role in reducing drug harms and preventing drug deaths in Scotland.

Official Scottish Government data from September last year showed a record number of 1,339 people in Scotland died in 2020 from drug misuse.

In response, RPS in Scotland is called on the Government and the pharmacy sector to work together to reduce drug harms in the country.