A new research study shows that combining naloxone with opioid therapy can lower the number of visits that a patient on this medication makes to the emergency room. The study involved close to 2,000 patients, and slightly more than 38% of these patients were co prescribed naloxone as well as opioid drugs. Care providers were more likely to prescribe both types of drug in cases where the opioid dose was higher and when the patient had at least 1 opioid related ER visit in the last year. According to researcher Dr. Coffin “In the absence of guideline-based indications for naloxone co-prescribing, these may be reasonable metrics upon which to prioritize prescription of naloxone.” Researchers are advocating for this co-prescription practice in a primary care setting as well, and this step could lower the ER visit rate for this class of patients even further.
The research on using naloxone with opioid therapy is important. According to Massachusetts Boston University School of Medicine researchers Traci C. Green, PhD, and Alexander Y. Walley, MD, the mechanism at work which causes the ER visit reduction when naloxone is added needs to be clarified but the research shows great promise. “The educational component of the intervention may have reduced ED visits by altering risk behaviors, thus preventing overdoses in the first place. Alternatively, having naloxone available may have prevented the need for an ED visit when an overdose did occur. Receiving a naloxone rescue kit may have served as tangible reinforcement of overdose prevention messages, though this warrants further study. If the substantial reductions in opioid-related ED visits observed at 6 and 12 months prove to be robust in other populations, this intervention will benefit patients and health systems.”