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Government committed to supporting and expanding life-saving naloxone programme

By Irish Pharmacist - 01st Feb 2024

The Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton, has reaffirmed her commitment to expanding naloxone services as she highlighted the programme’s progress in 2023.

Naloxone is a prescription-only medication that is used as an antidote to temporarily reverse the effects of opioid drugs like heroin, morphine, methadone, and synthetic opioids if someone overdoses.

As part of the continued implementation of harm reduction measures under the National Drugs Strategy, Minister Naughton is committed to supporting further development of naloxone services. This will include additional training in 2024 as well as work on introducing measures to increase accessibility.

Minister Naughton said: “I am greatly encouraged by the participation to date in 2023, of almost 2,000 people in Overdose Awareness and Naloxone Administration training, facilitated by the Health Service Executive and partner services. This important work will save lives.

“We saw the life-saving effects of naloxone during the recent overdose cases in Dublin and Cork. In many cases it was administered before emergency services arrived on the scene, and this reinforces the need to make it more readily available. Some 6,488 units of naloxone have been supplied by the HSE to services to date in 2023.

“My department is working closely with the HSE National Naloxone Oversight Quality Assurance Group, to increase awareness and accessibility of naloxone. It’s important that it is made more accessible to support workers, peers, and family members.

“We launched an interactive piece of street art in April containing a QR code which, when scanned, brings you to two videos demonstrating how people can recognise and respond to an opioid overdose, including the administration of naloxone. I hope this artwork has helped to educate and empower members of the public and families to recognise and respond to a loved one’s drug-related overdose.

“In August the Irish Prison Service announced the commencement of the provision of intranasal naloxone to prisoners on release, and with a history of opioid use, which may prevent fatalities in the event of an overdose. They partnered with the HSE and the Irish Red Cross to actively work together to mitigate the risks associated with opioid overdoses. Two educational videos were created for broadcast on the in-cell Prison TV channel to increase prisoner awareness, and empower them tom respond effectively in overdose situations.

“I am fully supportive of the work ongoing with An Garda Síochána towards a pilot training frontline gardaí to carry and administer naloxone in 2024. In May I progressed the introduction of S.I. No. 238 of 2023 Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) (Amendment) (No.3) Regulation. This regulation provided for the approval of courses by the Health Service Executive for persons who may supply and administer naloxone in an emergency.

“I’m also pleased that at the end of January 2024, the HSE National Social Inclusion Office will launch a blended accredited Opioid Overdose Awareness and Naloxone Administration Training course on HSeLanD.

“Organisations which complete the two-module training can notify the Health Products Regulatory Authority of their intention to procure naloxone from a pharmacy or other supplier.

“Naloxone training is part of an integrated approach to reducing drug harm under the National Drugs Strategy, and I am committed to supporting practical initiatives that help to save and improve the lives of those affected by drug use,” concluded Minister Naughton.

Investment in the naloxone programme is one of several initiatives funded this year in order to enhance access to and delivery of drug services all over Ireland, including the first ever funding for a national drug prevention and education programme.

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