Why aren't Australian pharmacists supplying naloxone? Findings from a qualitative study

Anna Olsen, Belinda Lawton, Robyn Dwyer, Meng Wong Taing, Ka Lai Joyce Chun, Samantha Hollingworth, Suzanne Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Opioid overdose is a significant public health issue among people who use pharmaceutical opioids and/or heroin. One response to reducing overdose deaths is to expand public access to naloxone. The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration down-scheduled naloxone from prescription only (S4)to pharmacist only over-the-counter (OTC, schedule 3)in February 2016. There is little research examining pharmacists’ perspectives or experiences of this change. Methods: Thirty-seven semi-structured interviews with Australian community pharmacists were conducted in 2016–2017 to investigate pharmacists’ attitudes to and experiences of OTC naloxone. Transcripts were thematically analysed, guided by a broad interest in facilitators and barriers to OTC supply. Results: Around half of the pharmacists were aware of the down-scheduling and only two had provided OTC naloxone. Core barriers to pharmacist provision of OTC naloxone included limited understanding of opioid overdose, confusion about the role and responsibilities of pharmacists in providing OTC naloxone, concerns about business, stigma related to people who inject drugs (PWID)and system-level challenges. Conclusion: Pharmacy provision of OTC naloxone offers an important opportunity to reduce overdose mortality. Our study suggests this opportunity is yet to be realised and highlights several individual- and structural-level impediments hindering the expansion of public access to naloxone via community pharmacies. There is a need to develop strategies to improve pharmacists’ knowledge of OTC naloxone and opioid overdose as well as to address other logistical and cultural barriers that limit naloxone provision in pharmacy settings. These need to be addressed at the individual level (training)as well as the system level (information, regulation and supply).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-52
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • Community pharmacy
  • Naloxone
  • Opioid
  • Over the counter
  • Overdose
  • Pharmacists

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