The Commonwealth Minister for Health the Hon Greg Hunt recently announced a major funding boost for alcohol and other drugs treatment and related initiatives. The package will provide $268 million for rehabilitation, research and other activities.
The Minister’s announcement included a commitment of $7.2 million over two years to pilot a take-home naloxone (THN) program in Australia. Naloxone is the life-saving medicine that temporarily reverses an opioid overdose, allowing time for medical attention
“In partnership with the states and territories, a THN program will expand availability of naloxone to a range of additional settings frequently accessed by at-risk groups,” the Minister said.
Concurrent with the pilot, the Commonwealth will fund Burnet Institute and the National Drug Research Institute to undertake research into the key principles and features of a nationally consistent THN model in Australia.
“The findings of this research will complement the ‘on the ground’ findings of the pilot, which will enable the THN model to be refined to a national rollout,” the Minister said.
Penington Institute CEO John Ryan welcomed the announcement while calling for ‘courage, imagination and boldness’ in tackling Australia’s opioid death rate. The announcement follows the September 2018 launch by Minister Hunt of Penington Institute’s proposed national model for naloxone access, as reported in the Anex Bulletin volume 15 edition 3.
“The national model provides an effective and workable basis to help save the lives of thousands of Australians,” said John.
“It is very promising that the Government is building on the foundations of the national naloxone model, an unprecedented opportunity to prevent more unnecessary deaths.”
In 2016, there were 1704 accidental deaths from drugs in Australia. Most of these deaths (1123), implicated opioids – both pharmaceutical pain medicine and heroin.
John Ryan said that naloxone is a vital medicine, but it is just not getting into the hands of those who can benefit.
“Naloxone is a remarkable treatment which can save many more lives in every corner of the country. Obviously if people cannot get access to it or can’t afford it, we simply aren’t going to get anywhere in preventing deaths,” John said.
“We know take-home naloxone works,” he said. “The first six months of a Victorian program funded by the Department of Health and Human Services – the Naloxone Subsidy Initiative – saw 1400 clients trained and 1009 packs of naloxone given out.”
“What’s more, clients reported 151 administrations of naloxone – that’s a great number of lives saved.”
– Sophie Marcard