Perpetuating stigma or reducing risk? Perspectives from naloxone consumers and pharmacists on pharmacy-based naloxone in 2 states

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Date of Original Version



Objectives Little is known about attitudes of pharmacists and consumers to pharmacy naloxone. We examined perceptions and experiences of pharmacy naloxone from people with opioid use disorder, patients taking chronic opioids for pain, caregivers of opioid users, and pharmacists from 2 early pharmacy naloxone adopter states: Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Design Eight focus groups (4 per state) were held in October to December 2015. Setting and participants Participants were recruited from pharmacies, health clinics, and community organizations; pharmacists were recruited from professional organizations and pharmacy colleges. Outcome measures Focus groups were led by trained qualitative researchers using a topic guide, and recorded and transcribed for analysis. Five analysts developed and applied a coding scheme to transcripts. Thematic analysis involved synthesis of coded data and connections between key themes, with comparisons across the groups. Results Sixty-one participants included patients with chronic pain (n = 15), people with opioid use disorders (n = 19), caregivers (n = 16), and pharmacists (n = 11). A majority of pharmacists had dispensed naloxone to patients; a minority of all consumer participants had obtained pharmacy naloxone. Four themes emerged: consumer fear of future consequences if requesting naloxone; pharmacists’ concerns about practice logistics related to naloxone; differing perceptions of how opioid safety is addressed in the pharmacy; and solutions to addressing these barriers. Whereas consumer groups differed in awareness of naloxone and availability at pharmacies, all groups expressed support for the pharmacist's role and preferences for a universal offer of naloxone based on clear criteria. Conclusion Pharmacies complement community naloxone provision to patients and caregivers. To overcome stigma of naloxone receipt, increased public awareness of naloxone and pharmacist training about naloxone and addiction are required. Pharmacists should offer naloxone via universal opt-out strategies—where all patients meeting evidence-based criteria are offered naloxone—rather than targeted or opt-in strategies—where only patients perceived as high risk or patients who request it are offered naloxone.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of the American Pharmacists Association