Pharmacies across the UK should be contracted by local commissioning services to provide a take-home naloxone service, a government advisory board has said.

Naloxone is currently available in some pharmacies in the UK and in all pharmacies in Edinburgh, but the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has called for this to be extended to all pharmacies in the UK.

This recommendation comes as part of a report from the ACMD which reviewed the availability and use of naloxone in the UK, a drug used to reverse opioid overdose.

The report also recommended that pharmacists and pharmacy staff receive training on how to provide naloxone and how to administer both intranasal and intramuscular naloxone.

There are ‘many advantages’ to pharmacies being able to supply naloxone kits, particularly as a ‘core group of people using drugs will visit pharmacies to access opioid substitution,’ said the body.

Pharmacies are a ‘key provider of take-home naloxone (THN) in several regions of England’, ACMD explained.

Since 2015, 717 (19%) kits supplied by pharmacies have been administered in an overdose situation, compared with 4% provided by the drug treatment service.

‘This suggests that in some parts of England, pharmacies are reaching those encountering overdose situations more often than drug treatment services,’ ACMD said.

Currently in Scotland, it is recommended that all pharmacies stock naloxone for use in an emergency, and to supply to those who may witness an overdose.

Meanwhile in Wales, it is recommended that THN is provided on an opt-out basis through community pharmacy needle and syringe programme.

However, the report called for a UK-wide agreement on the specific role of community pharmacies in supplying naloxone would be a useful way of promoting collaborative working in all areas of the UK’.

The report comes after a sharp rise in the number of overdoses connected to heroin.

Results of a consultation on naloxone, published in March, found that almost all respondents 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 has looked into changing a law that would mean naloxone could be supplied without a prescription by roles such as pharmacists, nurses and police officers.