Victorians grappling with opioid addiction will have greater access to a life-saving overdose reversal drug after the state government decided to take further advantage of a federal scheme.
The Take Home Naloxone program was introduced by the federal government in July 2022, giving opioid users and their loved ones free access to the drug from pharmacies and other authorised suppliers.
Naloxone, which reverses opioid overdoses, has since been available at some pharmacies without a prescription. But the federal government left it up to state and territory governments to select non-pharmacy providers.
Mental Health Minister Ingrid Stitt on Monday announced Victoria's take home naloxone program would roll out this week, giving 48 of the state's needle and syringe programs access to the drug more than a year after the federal program began.
Naloxone would also be available at the medically supervised injecting room at North Richmond, and through pharmacies and other medical practices already signed up to the program, Ms Stitt said.
The Department of Health would continue to work with the sector to ensure appropriate supply was available following national naloxone shortages.
"Every overdose is a tragedy that no loved one should ever have to experience - by making naloxone more accessible, it will help save lives and avoid unnecessary heartbreak," Ms Stitt said.
"We know addiction remains a serious health issue across Victoria - that is why we are continuing to invest in critical initiatives to address the devastating impact of addiction and help people make lasting changes in their lives."
Cohealth, which provides not-for-profit health services in Melbourne, said the move would help prevent overdose deaths.
"This is life-saving medicine, it is easy-to-administer and has no effect on someone who does not have opioids in their system,'' cohealth addiction medicine specialist Dean Membrey said.
"There is no downside to making this medicine more available."
But Dr Membrey said naloxone was not a "silver bullet" and the state government needed to introduce a system-wide response to drug use in the community.
More than 1000 people in Australia die from overdoses each year, and the most common cause of overdoses is opioids.
Victoria's $6.2 million iteration of the naloxone program will allow people to collect the drug with the intention of giving it to another person.
Australian Associated Press