Point-of-care naloxone distribution in the emergency department: A pilot study

Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2021 Feb 8;78(4):360-366. doi: 10.1093/ajhp/zxaa409.


Purpose: Opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution (OEND) for use by laypersons has been shown to be safe and effective, but implementation in the emergency department (ED) setting is challenging. Recent literature has shown a discouragingly low rate of obtainment of naloxone that is prescribed in the ED setting. We conducted a study to evaluate the feasibility of point-of-care (POC) distribution of naloxone in an ED, hypothesizing a rate of obtainment higher than prescription fill rates reported in previous studies.

Summary: A multidisciplinary team of experts, including pharmacists, physicians, nurses, and case management professionals used an iterative process to develop a protocol for POC OEND in the ED. The protocol includes 5 steps: (1) patient screening, (2) order placement in the electronic health record (EHR), (3) a patient training video, (4) dispensing of naloxone kit, and (5) written discharge instructions. The naloxone kits were assembled, labeled to meet requirements for a prescription, and stored in an automated dispensing cabinet. Two pharmacists, 30 attending physicians, 65 resident physicians, and 108 nurses were trained. In 8 months, 134 orders for take-home naloxone were entered and 117 naloxone kits were dispensed, resulting in an obtainment rate of 87.3%. The indication for take-home naloxone kit was heroin use for 61 patients (92.4%).

Conclusion: POC naloxone distribution is feasible and yielded a rate of obtainment significantly higher than previous studies in which naloxone was prescribed. POC distribution can be replicated at other hospitals with low rates of obtainment.

Keywords: fentanyl; heroin; naloxone; opioid; overdose.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Drug Overdose* / drug therapy
  • Drug Overdose* / epidemiology
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Naloxone / therapeutic use
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Pilot Projects
  • Point-of-Care Systems


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Naloxone