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Is cost a factor? Naloxone use lower than expected

Date posted: 21 June 2016

There has been a low uptake of the heroin-reversing drug Naloxone since being made available over the counter, and experts say the cost is a barrier for drug users. Australia is one of only two nations in the world, behind Italy, to allow the drug to be sold over the counter without a prescription. This has made the treatment easy to obtain, which is what medical professionals have been advocating for over the past few decades.

Chris Gough, a past drug user turned treatment advocate, said he believed the rescheduling of Naloxone to make it available without a prescription would help to save lives. ‘There are a lot of people who use drugs who don't have access to services and who want to remain anonymous, and to have the drug available over the counter at a pharmacist allows them to do that in a manner that essentially protects their privacy,’ Mr Gough said.

However, Dr Suzanne Neilsen, of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), said there were many pharmacists who had not had any requests for the drug over the counter. 'From our research it was very obvious that our pharmacists were more than willing to be involved in the supply of Naloxone,' she said.

These findings from NDARC also seem to indicate that cost is a significant barrier to the use of naloxone as a treatment for heroin. Some experts say the drug should be made available free of charge, and pharmacists have called for training in administration of the drug.

Mr Gough said there were many reasons for the slow uptake, including misconceptions about how easy or difficult the drug was to administer. He said he was now hopeful the Therapeutic Goods Administration would approve a nasal application of the drug, which is currently being trialled in Sydney.

Source: ABC News

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Last updated: 30 June 2016
 
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Australia's National Research Centre on AOD Workforce Development National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre National Drug Research Institute