Naloxone for opioid overdose prevention: pharmacists' role in community-based practice settings

Ann Pharmacother. 2014 May;48(5):601-6. doi: 10.1177/1060028014523730. Epub 2014 Feb 12.


Background: Deaths related to opioid overdose have increased in the past decade. Community-based pharmacy practitioners have worked toward overcoming logistic and cultural barriers to make naloxone distribution for overdose prevention a standard and accepted practice.

Objective: To describe outpatient naloxone dispensing practices, including methods by which practitioners implement dispensing programs, prescribing patterns that include targeted patient populations, barriers to successful implementation, and methods for patient education.

Methods: Interviews were conducted with providers to obtain insight into the practice of dispensing naloxone. Practitioners were based in community pharmacies or clinics in large metropolitan cities across the country.

Results: It was found that 33% of participating pharmacists practice in a community-pharmacy setting, and 67% practice within an outpatient clinic-based location. Dispensing naloxone begins by identifying patient groups that would benefit from access to the antidote. These include licit users of high-dose prescription opioids (50%) or injection drug users and abusers of prescription medications (83%). Patients were identified through prescription records or provider screening tools. Dispensing naloxone required a provider's prescription in 5 of the 6 locations identified. Only 1 pharmacy was able to exercise pharmacist prescriptive authority within their practice.

Conclusion: Outpatient administration of intramuscular and intranasal naloxone represents a means of preventing opioid-related deaths. Pharmacists can play a vital role in contacting providers, provision of products, education of patients and providers, and dissemination of information throughout the community. Preventing opioid overdose-related deaths should become a major focus of the pharmacy profession.

Keywords: antidote; intranasal; naloxone; opioids; overdose.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / organization & administration
  • Analgesics, Opioid / poisoning
  • Community Pharmacy Services / organization & administration*
  • Drug Overdose / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Naloxone / therapeutic use*
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy
  • Pharmacists / organization & administration*
  • Professional Role*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Naloxone