Moves to make naloxone, the drug used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose, available over the counter in Australia have been welcomed by Burnet Institute’s Professor Paul Dietze.
But Professor Dietze, Head Alcohol and Other Drug Research in the Centre for Population Health, would like naloxone to be made more widely available still.
Currently available on prescription, from February 2016 naloxone will be accessible over the counter at pharmacies.
A life-saving medication with minimal side effects, naloxone starts people breathing again after an overdose, it’s harmless to people without opioids in their system, and it’s not addictive.
“I guess it’s recognition that people are continuing to die, the numbers are actually increasing a little at the moment,” Professor Dietze told ABC Radio’s PM program.
“It has sort of brought it back onto the agenda and finally, thankfully, we’re actually moving towards making it more available.”
Professor Dietze is a strong supporter of a take-home naloxone program that’s been operating in the Australian Capital Territory since 2011 and credited with 57 overdose reversals using program-issued naloxone.
He said any initiative that improves the accessibility of naloxone is worth pursuing.
“One of the things that we really need to do is make sure that it’s available to people who might be at risk of overdose who mightn’t come into contact with pharmacists and mightn’t have the money to pay,” Professor Dietze said.
“So, we really need to be providing it through other services, like primary health centres, and maybe needle and syringe programs that really do have the capacity to actually provide it and they have the expertise.”
To listen to the PM story Heroin users to get access to ‘life-saving’ drug or read a full transcript, click here.