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Originator: National Patient Safety Alert - Office for Health Improvement and Disparities

Issue date: 26-Jul-2023 10:08:28

This alert has been issued to:
  • Care Trusts
  • Mental Health Trusts
  • Specialists Trusts
  • Learning Disabilities Trusts
  • Mental Health & Social Care Trusts
  • Ambulance Trusts
  • Mental Health & Learning Disabilities Trusts
  • Acute Trusts
  • Community Trusts

  • Other contacts
  • Independent Healthcare Providers (registered with CAS)
  • Clinical Commissioning Groups
  • NHS Regional Offices
  • Social Care Providers (registered with CAS)
  • Special Health Authorities
  • Territorial CMOs in Northern Ireland, Scotland & Wales
  • Regional Directors of Public Health
  • Director of Public Health
  • GP - Locum
  • NHS 111 and Out of hours providers
  • GP Practices
  • Community Pharmacy
  • Primary Care Networks
  • GP Practices 1

Action category: Action

Title: Potent synthetic opioids implicated in heroin overdoses and deaths

Broadcast content:

In the past 8 weeks there has been an elevated number of overdoses (with some deaths) in people who use drugs, primarily heroin, in many parts of the country (reports are geographically widespread, with most regions affected but only a few cities or towns in each region).

Testing in some of these cases has found nitazenes, a group of potent synthetic opioids. Nitazenes have been identified previously in this country, but their use has been more common in the USA. Their potency and toxicity are uncertain but perhaps similar to, or more than fentanyl, which is about 100x morphine.

This National Patient Safety Alert provides further background and clinical information and actions for providers.

The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) is responsible for some functions which were previously under the remit of Public Health England. OHID became an accredited issuer of National Patient Safety Alerts at the same time as the UK Health Security Agency. OHID’s accreditation is specific to the work they lead on illicit drugs and alcohol; this is the first OHID National Patient Safety Alert which we have issued.

Additional information: NHS England Regions: please cascade this alert to community pharmacy.

Alert reference: NatPSA/2023/009/OHID

Action underway deadline: 28-Jul-2023

Action complete deadline: 04-Aug-2023


Contact our helpdesk

Email: safetyalerts@mhra.gov.uk

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency