Minister signs law allowing trained people administer life-saving medicine

Date Published : October 15th, 2015    Published By : admin

The Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has signed new laws allowing life-saving rescue medicines to be administered by trained members of the public in emergency situations. The Minister has also expanded the range of vaccines which can be administered by pharmacists.Both measures have been brought in through a Statutory Instrument.

Minister Loe Varadker
(Minister Varadkar speaking at a Respond confernce)

The life-saving situations may include glucagon for diabetic hypoglycaemia, adrenaline auto-injectors (epipens, anapen, jext, emerade etc) for severe allergic reactions and glyceryl trinitrate for angina (severe chest pain) for severe allergic reactions and glyceryl trinitrate for angina (severe chest pain).

Organisations such as colleges, workplaces and sports venues will be allowed to hold these medicines and arrange for staff to be trained in their use. The Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council which accredits paramedics will be given the role of accrediting courses for lay people which will be available in coming months. The move is being welcomed by many Community First Responder groups.

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(Community Respond Conference in Tullamore) Photo: Declan Keogh

Additionally pharmacists will be able to supply and administer these medicines to individuals in emergency circumstances. The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland is developing training standards and it is envisaged that they will be able to commission and accredit courses in the coming months.

Between 2007 and 2013, 16,722 people died in Ireland after suffering a heart attack from multiple causes, 359 died following an acute asthma attack, 17 from hypoglycaemia, and four from severe allergic shock.

Minister Varadkar said: “These are important new healthcare initiatives which have the potential to save lives. I am allowing organisations such as colleges, workplaces and sports venues to hold emergency ‘rescue’ medicines and arrange for staff to be trained in their use. Pharmacists will also be able to supply and administer these medicines to individuals in emergency circumstances.

“These new arrangements do not in any way change the existing ‘good Samaritan’ rule which allows any member of the public to assist a person in distress to administer a medicine which has been prescribed to them. Equally, these Regulations in no way diminish the responsibility or the importance of people continuing to carry the medicines that they need to manage their own health needs.

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(Photo for illustration purposes) Photo: Declan Keogh

The Minister said he was also expanding the range of vaccines which can be administered by pharmacists. Since 2011 pharmacists have been able to offer the flu vaccine to patients. Under the new regulations pharmacists will now also be able to offer shingles and pneumococcal vaccines.

Minister Varadkar has changed existing rules to make medicines, such as adrenaline auto-injectors (epipens), glucagon, salbutamol and naloxone, more available for use in emergencies for the purpose of saving life or reducing severe distress.

The full range of emergency medicines covered by the new regulations are –
· adrenaline auto-injectors (epipens) (treatment of anaphylaxis)
· glyceryl trinitrate (treatment of unstable angina)
· salbutamol (treatment of asthma attacks)
· glucagon (treatment of diabetic hypoglycaemia)
· naloxone (treatment of opioid overdose)
· entonox (gas mixture consisting of 50% nitrous oxide and 50% oxygen) (management of severe pain when used by emergency rescue organisations e.g. mountain rescue teams).

The new regulations will allow pharmacists to supply and administer the shingles and pneumococcal vaccines. Two thirds of shingles cases occur in individuals over 50 years of age. Pneumococcal infection is the most common cause of pneumonia.  International evidence shows that the provision of vaccines through pharmacies increases uptake. It is expected that the new vaccines will be available from early next year. Currently, these vaccines are only available from a GP or hospital.

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