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Alberta expands access to life-saving naloxone

More health professionals will be able to prescribe, administer and distribute naloxone – a drug that can be used to reverse fentanyl overdoses – under ministerial orders issued by Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.

“Too many Albertans’ lives have been cut short by fentanyl, and too many Alberta families have experienced the devastating loss of a loved one due to an accidental overdose. Naloxone is proven to reduce overdose deaths and save lives. That’s why we’re taking action to expand access to it across the province.”

Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health

The ministerial orders will expand the scope of practice for registered nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and emergency medical responders (EMRs). Under these orders:

  • registered nurses will be allowed to prescribe naloxone – in addition to administering and distributing the drug as they are currently authorized to do;
  • paramedics will be allowed to distribute naloxone – in addition to administering the drug as allowed within their existing scope of practice; and
  • emergency medical technicians and emergency medical responders will be authorized to administer and distribute naloxone.

“CARNA supports the Alberta government’s actions to expand access to naloxone, and we’re pleased that registered nurses are being enabled to use their education and skills to prescribe naloxone to people who need it. Naloxone is safe and effective at reversing overdoses, and making it more accessible to Albertans is an important step in reducing overdose deaths.”

Shannon Spenceley, President, College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta

“Paramedics, EMTs and EMRs are often the first on scene to treat those who have overdosed on fentanyl or other drugs. The Alberta College of Paramedics is pleased that the Alberta government has authorized our highly skilled emergency responders to use naloxone as a tool to respond more effectively when a patient has overdosed.”

Tim Essington, Registrar, Alberta College of Paramedics

The ministerial orders will be in place until July 1, 2016, and can be renewed if needed. In the meantime, the Alberta government will continue to work with the federal government, provinces, territories and other stakeholders to make naloxone available without a prescription.

In 2014, there were 120 overdose deaths in Alberta involving fentanyl. From January 1 to September 30, 2015, there were 213 overdose deaths involving the drug. Illicit fentanyl is highly toxic, and only a very small amount can be deadly.

Expanding the role of registered nurses, paramedics, EMTs and EMRs is one part of a larger Alberta government response to fentanyl. Additional information on Alberta’s response is available on the Alberta Health website.

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