Community pharmacy naloxone supply, before and after rescheduling as an over-the-counter drug: sales and prescriptions data, 2014–2018

Wai Chung Tse, Paul Sanfilippo, Tina Lam, Paul Dietze, Suzanne Nielsen

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Objectives: To characterise the community pharmacy supply of naloxone by supply type — individual prescription, prescriber bag, and non-dispensed (supplied over the counter or expired) — during 2014–2018; to examine whether the 2016 rescheduling of naloxone as an over-the-counter drug influenced non-dispensed naloxone supply volume. Design, setting: Analysis of monthly naloxone prescriptions (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) and sales data (IQVIA), 2014–2018, for Australia and by state and territory; time series analysis of non-dispensed naloxone supply to assess effect of rescheduling on naloxone supply. Major outcomes: Total naloxone supply to community pharmacies; prescribed and non-dispensed naloxone supply. Results: During 2014–2018, 372 351 400 μg units of naloxone were sold to community pharmacies: non-dispensed naloxone accounted for 205 866.5 units (55.3%), prescriber bags for 155 841 units (41.8%), and individual prescriptions for 10 643.5 units (2.9%). Population-adjusted national naloxone sales to community pharmacies increased between 2014 and 2018 (per year: incidence rate ratio [IRR], 1.15; 95% CI, 1.09–2.22). This increase was primarily attributable to increased volumes of prescriber bag naloxone (IRR, 1.63; 95% CI, 1.50–1.78) and, to a lesser extent, increased individual prescription supply (IRR, 2.04; 95% CI, 1.85–2.26). Non-dispensed naloxone supply volume was unchanged at the national level (IRR, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.85–1.01); changes in non-dispensed supply immediately following rescheduling and subsequently were not statistically significant in time series analyses for most jurisdictions. Conclusions: Total naloxone supply to community pharmacies in Australia increased between 2014 and 2018, but rescheduling that enabled over-the-counter access did not significantly influence the volume of non-dispensed naloxone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-320
Number of pages7
JournalThe Medical Journal of Australia
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2020


  • Drug overdose
  • Opioid-related disorders
  • Overdose
  • Preventive medicine

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