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Naloxone Distribution by Syringe Exchanges Soars, but Supplies Running Short

August 31, 2020

A recent study found that while distribution of naloxone at syringe exchange programs has soared in recent years, many programs said they are either running out of the overdose reversal medication or needed to ration it within the previous six months.

The study, conducted by the not-for-profit research institute RTI International, found that 94% of syringe service programs now offer naloxone through an opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution program, up from 55% in syringe exchanges that distributed naloxone in 2013.

RTI reached out to all 342 syringe service programs listed North American Syringe Exchange Network directory at the beginning of 2019 for the study. Of the 263 programs that responded, 247 said they have implemented an OEND program. Further, 77% of programs said they offer naloxone during every syringe exchange, and 87% said they provide naloxone on request. Still, about a third of responding programs said they are either running out of naloxone or have needed to ration it within the past six months. Four of the 16 respondents who do not offer naloxone said they previously did, but stopped because of inadequate supplies or funding.

“Syringe service programs have been doing tremendous work under difficult circumstances, and we need to be doing more to support these programs to scale up naloxone even further,” Barrot Lambdin, PhD, senior epidemiologist and implementation scientist at RTI and lead author of the study, said in a news release. “This need has only grown in importance since the coronavirus pandemic began, which has destabilized many services for people who use drugs.”

Additional findings from RTI International’s study were published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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