Leading independent drug research, policy and education organisation, Penington Institute, has welcomed today’s (27 February) announcement by the Commonwealth Government that it will fund a $7.2 million trial of naloxone access, the lifesaving drug capable of reversing opioid overdose.

It follows last year’s launch of Penington Institute’s ground-breaking report: Saving lives: Australian naloxone access model by Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

Penington Institute CEO John Ryan said that naloxone is a vital medicine, but it is not getting into the hands of those who need it.

“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 more deaths,” Mr Ryan said.

Each year around 1100 Australians die from opioid overdoses – mostly from legal painkillers such as oxycodone, morphine and fentanyl. This death toll exceeds the number killed in road accidents and is higher than that seen at the height of the heroin epidemic in the late ’90s.

The Penington Institute says many of these deaths could be avoided, if family or friends of the victims were able to administer a dose or two of the reversal medication naloxone.

The Institute’s report calls for naloxone kits to be made available free to people who are likely to experience or witness an overdose.

“We absolutely must turn the tide on opioid overdose deaths. Our proposed model provides an effective and workable basis to help save the lives of thousands of Australians.

“It’s absolutely vital the Government build on the foundations we’ve laid. Canberra now has to show courage, imagination and boldness to prevent more unnecessary deaths,” Mr Ryan added.

Penington Institute’s report recommended key actions:

  • Boost public awareness of naloxone.
  • Provide the medication free-of-charge through key distribution points (e.g. needle and syringe programs, mental health services, pharmacies and hospital emergency departments).
  • Ensure those at risk of overdose have easy access to naloxone. Included are: people who inject drugs, people prescribed strong opioids, soon-to-be released prison inmates, and the friends and family of people who use opioids.
  • Ensure the medication is available via intra-nasal spray.
  • Train people so they know how to use naloxone.
  • Authorise more professions, such as nurses and pharmacy staff, to supply the medication to achieve national consistency.

Media Contact at Penington Institute:  David Rose – 0434 500854 – d.rose@penington.org.au

Interviews can be organised with John Ryan, Penington Institute CEO, directly on 0407 885825.

Download a copy of this media release.