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Life-saving drug not administered by two NI health trusts

By BitterSweet, Feb 27, 2013 | Updated: Mar 9, 2013 | | |
  1. BitterSweet
    19068.jpg Two of NI's health trusts have not distributed a potentially life-saving drug, despite it being available to them since July 2012.

    Naloxone temporarily reverses the effects of heroin overdose, allowing more time for emergency treatment.

    The Public Health Agency bought 500 packs of the drug, at a cost of £8,345, and made it available in July 2012.

    But neither the Belfast Trust nor the South-Eastern Trust have distributed it to addicts at risk of overdose as yet.

    Naloxone saves lives and it's the most simple drug to use. The longer they take to drag their heels with Naloxone the more people are going to die.”

    The BBC has learned that in 2011, the latest year for which figures are currently available, 17 people died of a heroin overdose in Northern Ireland.

    Naloxone comes in a pack containing the drug in syringes and the packs were supplied by the PHA to local health trusts.

    The packs were then to be given out by the trusts to medical professionals, staff from homeless organisations, pharmacists, drug users and their carers.

    Victoria Creasy from the PHA said they wanted to get the drug out "all across Northern Ireland".

    "We don't want people to take a heroin overdose, but it is there if that happens to save their life."

    So far, the Northern Trust has distributed 63 of the 130 packs they received, while both the Western and Southern Trusts have handed out small numbers of Naloxone packs.

    The Belfast Trust received 150 packs of the drug, while the South-Eastern Trust received 100 packs.

    Neither trust has yet distributed any to addicts or those living or working with them.

    However, the Prison Service, in which healthcare is overseen by the South-Eastern Trust, has distributed 35 packs of the drug to prisoners judged to be at risk of overdose on release.

    According to the PHA, about 210 people have also received training in how to administer the drug.

    Joanne Brannigan sits on the Naloxone steering group, made up of representatives from the PHA, the trust's addiction teams, the Health and Social Care Board and others.

    She claims that lives may have been lost because the drug has not been made widely available.

    "Naloxone saves lives and it's the most simple drug to use," she said.

    "The longer they take to drag their heels with Naloxone the more people are going to die."

    In a statement to the BBC, the Belfast Trust said that they had "established a care pathway" and hoped to be able to distribute the drug shortly.

    The South-Eastern Trust also provided a statement in which they said that they are about to commence training to enable the drug to be administered and that they anticipate dispensing 25 packs of Naloxone through their Community Addictions Team in March 2013.

    They said that, as prison health was "much smaller with different governance arrangements" they were able to implement distribution to prisoners more quickly.

    Author: Robbie Meredith, BBC News Northern Ireland
    Date: February 26, 2013


  1. RoboCodeine7610
    I don't think naloxone will prevent a significant amount of deaths for 2 reasons:

    1.The last thing addicts want is instant and excruciating withdrawals; they'll avoid using it to the very end.

    2.If an IV heroin user overdoses to the point where he's life is at risk, it'd be pretty difficult to get a syringe, find a vein (we're talking about IV heroin addicts) and inject the drug before he passes out.

    Naloxone is only useful in programs where they allow users to inject the drug under supervision, and administer it as soon as an overdose is suspected.

  2. corvardus
    Whilst having a debate about the merits of Naloxone might be interesting it isn't particularly relevant to the story. It is more about the obvious disconnect between issuing of the Naloxone by PHA and its distribution to end users by the relevant agencies that deal with them.

    The money has been spent, the drugs have been supplied the question is why the drugs aren't in the hands of people who might use them.

    We are approaching April 2013 and this drug was available in July 2012. Issuing of the drugs aren't exactly done as a surprise and health authorities are given time to prepare so they may cater for such issues that might arise, like training, as soon as reasonably practicable. The fact that they have not even got their training programs underway, let alone issuing of the drugs, should be challenged on that basis alone. If they are being negligent on this they may be cutting corners on other things as well.

    Certainly the lack of movement by the two trusts exceeding a year (including notification) should be grounds for greater scrutiny of its duty of care to the addicts within their jurisdictions.
  3. Alien Sex Fiend
    Naloxon... know that its been given out mandatory with clean needles at any drug related drop already in a syringe that to be used IV immediately in case of OD in Toronto for about a year. the result is unknown
  4. corvardus
    Are you aware if this has been given with or without training?

    Was also curious about the self-life of the drugs and considering it's only two years (link)yeah there might be some issues with the agencies wasting their time and thus the money that has already been spent on the Naloxone.
  5. kailey_elise
    They've been giving out Narcan in Massachusetts, USA for a few years now (they give it out with nasal atomisers & it's administered via the nostrils). It has saved MANY lives. And they give a short training course (10-20 minutes) on how to use it.

    However, yes, you cannot Narcan yourself. But many addicts get high with at least one other addict, so it makes sense for any heroin addict to carry some.

    It's also important for people living with addicts (parents or siblings, for instance) to have Narcan on hand.

    It's bullshit that this has been available & still hasn't been distributed.

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