By International Journal of Drug Policy

The U.S. is facing an unprecedented number of opioid-related overdose deaths, and an array of other countries have experienced increases in opioid-related facilities. In the U.S., naloxone is increasingly distributed to first responders to improve early administration to overdose victims, but its cost-effectiveness has not been studied. Lay distribution, in contrast, has been found to be cost-effective, but rising naloxone prices and increased mortality due to synthetic opioids may reduce cost-effectiveness. We evaluate the cost-effectiveness of increased naloxone distribution to (a) people likely to witness or experience overdose (“laypeople”); (b) police and firefighters; (c) emergency medical services (EMS) personnel; and (d) combinations of these groups.

High distribution to all three groups maximized net monetary benefit and minimized fatal overdoses; it averted 21% of overdose deaths compared to minimum distribution. High distribution to laypeople and one of the other groups comprised the second and third best strategies. The majority of health gains resulted from increased lay distribution. In the societal analysis, every strategy was cost-saving compared to its next-best alternative; cost savings were greatest in the maximum distribution strategy. In the health sector analysis, all undominated strategies were cost-effective. Results were highly robust to deterministic and probabilistic sensitivity analysis.

Increasing naloxone distribution to laypeople and first responder groups would maximize health gains and be cost-effective. If feasible, communities should distribute naloxone to all groups; otherwise, distribution to laypeople and one of the first responder groups should be emphasized.

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