This drug could treat opioid overdoses effectively

In a new study, researchers found broad distribution of the opioid reversal drug naloxone is highly cost-effective in reducing fatal overdoses.

The research was conducted by a team from University of Michigan.

When they began this project in 2016, the researchers were concerned about the rising number of deaths due to opioid overdose.

They talked to practitioners working on these issues on the ground, who emphasized a need for cost-effectiveness research on equipping first responders with naloxone.

The researchers examined the cost-effectiveness of increased distribution of naloxone to laypeople likely to witness or experience overdose, police and firefighters, and emergency medical services.

The found high distribution to all three groups was actually cost-saving when accounting for societal costs, such as productivity losses due to fatal overdose—even when considering increased costs related to the criminal justice and health care systems.

The team says resources to address widespread overdose deaths are limited, so it’s important to ask: How can they be allocated for maximum health benefit?

The finding shows that getting naloxone into the hands of all three of these groups minimized fatal overdoses and was very cost-effective.

Before this, there hadn’t been research on the cost-effectiveness of equipping first responder groups with naloxone, and how that compares to equipping laypeople.

The team says in many states, some emergency medical services personnel, like EMTs, aren’t authorized to administer naloxone—even though research has shown that they can do so safely.

One way for states to increase naloxone availability is by changing these policies.”

The research shows that ensuring laypeople have access to naloxone is also an important complement to first-responder distribution.

Some laypeople who witness an overdose hesitate to call 911, for fear of the consequences. So no matter how many first responders have naloxone, those victims can’t benefit from it.

Some policymakers have expressed concerns that providing naloxone to people who use opioids could encourage increased use.

The lead author of the study is Tarlise (Tarlie) Townsend, a doctoral candidate at U-M’s School of Public Health.

The study is published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

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