Preventing drug-related deaths through community pharmacy

Our head of services, Anna Ruthven takes a look at how the Naloxone service, commissioned through LloydsPharmacy, is already saving lives. 

It can be easy to forget that in community pharmacy we do far more than just dispensing prescriptions. There’s a whole host of services we provide at our LloydsPharmacy stores that are designed to help people take more control of their health.

One such service is the naloxone ‘take home supply and training’ initiative that we run at around 77 of our stores across the country, as well as 119 third-party pharmacies that we have commissioned to deliver the service. Not only is that about helping people to live healthier, it is ultimately saving lives!

Naloxone is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in the event of an overdose. The service we provide involves our pharmacists training customers – and their loved ones – on how to inject the Naloxone in case of an emergency. It’s a sad fact that there are around 4,000 drug-related deaths in the UK each year. By having naloxone available in community pharmacies, we can help to prevent some of these unnecessary fatalities.

In fact, our data shows that 81 deaths have so far prevented as a result of this service. That is an incredible number of lives that have been saved by community pharmacy. Beyond the supply and training, customers have told us that having a conversation with the pharmacist in the first place has helped improve their awareness and understanding of the risks associated with the drugs they’re taking. These kinds of successes are invaluable to communities and shows just how important of a role pharmacy can play in tackling drug-related health issues.

I spoke recently with one of our pharmacists providing the service and she told me:

“It gave me a great satisfaction after the first supply of the naloxone kit, as I got a very positive feedback from the customer. This service is about educating, helping and respecting people’s needs and facing the problems together.”

We also know from patient feedback that the convenience of being able to go to pharmacy, rather than a local substance misuse clinic, is a positive factor. As well as being easy to access, conversations are completely confidential, and some patients have even said that it is less embarrassing coming into the pharmacy compared to visiting other substance misuse service providers.

As ever, the success of these services relies on having a dedicated and passionate community pharmacy team that is prepared to take on the challenge. It’s a joint effort. Everyone in store has a role to play in signposting patients to the service, where appropriate, and providing general advice and guidance around substance misuse – and how to live healthier lives.