Study shows that making sure naloxone is readily available can greatly reduce overdose deaths
Lancet Public Health published a new study that covers the very quickly expanding use of British Columbia’s Take Home Naloxone program. The program made sure that more and more people had the life-saving overdose drug Naloxone after BC found that synthetic opioid overdoses were at epidemic proportions.
22 499 ambulance-attended overdoses and 2121 illicit drug-related deaths (677 (32%) deaths related to fentanyl) were recorded in the study period, mostly since January, 2016. In the same period, 19 074 THN kits were distributed. We estimate that 298 deaths (95% credible interval (CrI) 91–474) were averted by the THN programme. Of these deaths, 226 (95% CrI 125–340) were averted in 2016, following a rapid scale-up in distribution of kits. We infer a rapid increase in fentanyl adulterant at the beginning of 2016, with an estimated 2·3 times (95% CrI 2·0–2·9) increase from 2015 to 2016. Counterfactual modelling indicated that an earlier scale-up of the programme would have averted an additional 118 deaths (95% CrI 64–207). Our model also indicated that the increase in deaths could parsimoniously be explained through a change in the fentanyl-related overdose rate alone.
The THN programme substantially reduced the number of overdose deaths during a period of rapid increase in the number of illicit drug overdoses due to fentanyl in British Columbia. However, earlier adoption and distribution of the THN intervention might have had an even greater impact on overdose deaths. Our findings show the value of a fast and effective response at the start of a synthetic opioid epidemic. We also believe that multiple interventions are needed to achieve an optimal impact.
According to the study, the Take-Home program prevented 26 percent of all potential overdose-related deaths. Eureka Alert has more info on the program.