Researchers to explore painkiller overdose blocker

Friday 5th July 2019

Researchers at Stirling university will look at whether community pharmacists could provide a take-home overdose prevention treatment for patients prescribed drugs like codeine and morphine for chronic, non-cancer-related pain.

Patients with conditions such as arthritis and back pain are increasingly being prescribed the painkillers. In 2012, 18% of the Scottish population were found to have been prescribed opioids.

A team led Dr Tessa Parkes, Research Director for the Salvation Army Centre for Addiction Services and Research, will explore whether patients could be given take-home nasal sprays containing Naloxone – a drug that reverses the effects of opioids and is used to prevent heroin overdoses.

It expects to report in early 2020.

Dr Parkes said: “Scotland has one of the highest rates of opioid overdose mortality in Europe and the rates of both fatal and non-fatal drug related overdoses of opioid users are increasing in Scotland.

“Currently, overdose patients are treated with Naloxone – an injectable drug which blocks or reverses the effects of opioids – but it isn’t currently widely distributed within the chronic non-cancer pain population.

“Through this study, we will explore stakeholder views on the potential benefits of developing a new intra-nasal take-home naloxone package, as well as information and education for beneficiaries and family members, which would be facilitated by pharmacists working in communities.”

Dr Parkes will work in partnership with Professor Catriona Matheson, the recently appointed chair of a Scottish Government drugs taskforce, and research fellow Dr Rebecca Foster, as well as NHS Fife and Glasgow Caledonian and St Andrews universities.

Dr Parkes added: “We want to strengthen the evidence base in this area in order to help reduce the high rate of opioid related deaths in Scotland. The findings are also likely to be useful to the rest of the UK and to other countries facing similar issues, including the United States and Canada.

“If the findings from this study are promising, we would hope to secure further funding for a larger-scale study.”