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Funding vital for overdose reversal nasal spray

15 Feb 2024

Drug harm experts say funding for a nasal spray that reverses opioid overdoses is critical in the face of an increasingly toxic drug supply and the emergence of powerful synthetic opioids.

Pharmac’s Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee (PTAC) will tomorrow consider an application to fund Nyxoid, a nasal spray version of naloxone, which currently costs $92 for a pack of two.

Sarah Helm, executive director of the NZ Drug Foundation Te Puna Whakaiti Pāmamae Kai Whakapiri who made the application, says that funding for the medicine is becoming more crucial as powerful new opioids enter the country.

“Having Nyxoid funded would be a game changer for saving lives in the community,” says Helm.

“Opioids, both illicit and on prescription, were implicated in almost half of all fatal overdoses between 2017 and 2021. We’ve also seen the emergence of powerful new opioids called nitazenes that have been sold as other substances and are likely linked to several fatalities. So having lifesaving tools like this out in the community is vital.”

“While we’ve seen some good progress with getting injectable naloxone funded and available through needle exchanges, this nasal spray version is far easier to use by the general public. It can also be used by non-medical staff like police, community workers and caregivers.”

“In an emergency like an overdose, having a simple tool like this on hand can be the difference between life and death. If Nyxoid gets funded I have no doubt we will see a lot of people in the community carrying it.”

Carl Greenwood, general manager of Wellington’s Drugs Health and Development Project, agrees that having Nyxoid out in the community would make a big difference.

“It’s a no-brainer if we want to reduce fatal opioid overdoses,” he says. “Most people are going to be much more comfortable using a nasal spray if they’re coming to the aid of someone who is overdosing.”

In Australia, Nyxoid is freely available with no prescription to anyone who may experience or witness an opioid overdose as part of the country’s Take Home Naloxone programme. The programme was funded by the Australian Government after a pilot was estimated to have saved up to three lives a day between 2019 and 2021.

PTAC is a committee of senior health practitioners that provides clinical advice to help Pharmac make funding decisions. Its recommendations from this week’s meeting will be published in June, at which point Pharmac will consider any funding.





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