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Australia reschedules naloxone for opioid overdose

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has changed naloxone scheduling to make it available over the counter

On 24 November 2015, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced its final decision to place “naloxone when used for the treatment of opioid overdose” on Schedule 3, thereby allowing over-the-counter (OTC) purchase.1 This measure came into effect on 1 February 2016, making Australia the second country, after Italy (in 1995), to have naloxone formally available OTC.

Background

With much recent media focus on problems due to crystalline methamphetamine use in Australia, few may be aware that deaths from opioid overdose have been increasing over recent years.2 Following the “heroin drought” of late 2000, accidental deaths from heroin and other opioids among Australians aged 15–54 years dropped from 1116 deaths in 1999 (10.19 deaths per 100 000 population) to 386 deaths in 2001 (3.46 deaths per 100 000 population). However, opioid-related deaths have been rising steadily since 2007 — the most recent confirmed data indicate that 617 Australians aged 15–54 years died in 2011 (4.95 deaths per 100 000 population). Estimates for 2012 and 2013 suggest that this trend continues.2

Take-home naloxone (THN) programs are designed to help manage opioid overdose events…

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