Study shows naloxone kits cost-effective in preventing overdose deaths

January 2, 2013 by Melinda Young, Eileen Shields
Naloxone bottles with a syringe. Naloxone reverses the deadly, respiration-stopping effects of heroin overdose.

(Medical Xpress)—Giving heroin users kits with the overdose antidote naloxone is a cost-effective way to prevent overdose deaths and save lives, according to a study released this week in The Annals of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Phillip Coffin, director of Substance Use Research at the San Francisco Department of Public Health and assistant clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco, and Sean Sullivan, professor and director of the Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and Policy Program at the University of Washington in Seattle, co-authored the study

Drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury death in the United States.  Opioids, such as heroin, account for about 80 percent of those deaths. is a safe and effective antidote that works by temporarily blocking . As of 2010, 183 public health programs around the country, including those supported by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, had trained more than 53,000 individuals in how to use naloxone. These programs had documented more than 10,000 cases of successful overdose reversals.

The authors of this study developed a mathematical model to estimate the impact of distributing naloxone in this way. Their model was based on conservative estimates of the number of that occur each year. It accounted for people who overdose repeatedly. It also acknowledged that most people who overdose will survive whether or not they get naloxone.

In their basic model, Coffin and Sullivan estimated that reaching 20 percent of a million with naloxone would prevent about 9,000 over their lifetime. One life would be saved for every 164 naloxone kits given out. Based on more optimistic assumptions, naloxone could prevent as many as 43,000 deaths – one life for every 36 kits given out.

Naloxone distribution would cost about $400 for every quality-adjusted year of life gained. This value is well below the customary $50,000 cutoff for medical interventions. It is also cheaper than most well-accepted prevention programs in medicine and is most similar to the cost-effectiveness of smoking cessation or checking blood pressure. All reasonable assumptions produced costs that were well within traditional guidelines for cost-effectiveness.

"Naloxone is a highly cost-effective way to prevent overdose deaths," said Coffin. "And, as a researcher at the Department of Public Health, my priority is maximizing our resources to help improve the health of the community."

Naloxone has been distributed in San Francisco since the late 1990s and with San Francisco Department of support since 2004. During that time, heroin overdose fatalities slowly decreased from a peak of 155 in 1995 to 10 in 2010. Opioid analgesic deaths (such as those from the prescription pain medications oxycodone, methadone, or hydrocodone) remain elevated, with 121 deaths in 2010. Efforts are under way to expand access to naloxone for patients receiving prescription opioids as well.

Explore further: Drug-overdose antidote is put in addicts' hands

Related Stories

Drug-overdose antidote is put in addicts' hands

April 26, 2012
(AP) -- Steve Wohlen lay on his front lawn, blue, unconscious and barely breathing, overdosing on heroin.

Methadone linked to 30 percent of painkiller overdoses

July 4, 2012
The prescription drug methadone is linked to over 30 percent of painkiller overdose deaths, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention Tuesday.

Study analyzes link between HIV infection and overdose risk

December 12, 2011
A study from Rhode Island Hospital is the first to systematically review and analyze the literature on the association between HIV infection and overdose risk. The findings show a 74 percent greater risk of overdose among ...

Suboxone is most effective in treating painkiller addiction

November 7, 2011
Individuals addicted to prescription painkillers are more likely to succeed in treatment with the aid of the medication buprenorphine-naloxone (Suboxone), report McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School researchers in today's ...

Australia: Heroin and opioid deaths on the rise

October 10, 2012
A total of 500 Australians aged 15 to 54 died from accidental opioid overdoses in 2008 and preliminary estimates suggest deaths of this nature will be higher again in 2009 and 2010, according to the National Drug and Alcohol ...

Recommended for you

Study suggests ending opioid epidemic will take years

July 20, 2017
The question of how to stem the nation's opioid epidemic now has a major detailed response. A new study chaired by University of Virginia School of Law Professor Richard Bonnie provides extensive recommendations for curbing ...

Team-based model reduces prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent

July 17, 2017
A new, team-based, primary care model is decreasing prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent, according to a new study out of Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, which ...

Private clinics' peddling of unproven stem cell treatments is unsafe and unethical

July 7, 2017
Stem cell science is an area of medical research that continues to offer great promise. But as this week's paper in Science Translational Medicine highlights, a growing number of clinics around the globe, including in Australia, ...

Popular heartburn drugs linked to higher death risk

July 4, 2017
Popular heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been linked to a variety of health problems, including serious kidney damage, bone fractures and dementia. Now, a new study from Washington University School ...

Most reproductive-age women using opioids also use another substance

June 30, 2017
The majority of reproductive-age and pregnant women who use opioids for non-medical purposes also use at least one other substance, ranging from nicotine or alcohol to cocaine, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate ...

At-risk chronic pain patients taper opioids successfully with psychological tools

June 28, 2017
Psychological support and new coping skills are helping patients at high risk of developing chronic pain and long-term, high-dose opioid use taper their opioids and rebuild their lives with activities that are meaningful ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.