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Alberta Health increases access to kits that reverse fentanyl overdoses

Pharmacies across the province are now providing take-home naloxone kits free-of-charge to Albertans with a prescription.

Associate Minister Payne and a pharmacist looking at a naloxone kit

"This is just one of the steps our government is taking to address the devastating impact fentanyl is having in our province. The highly toxic drug is being used by people from many different age groups and from all walks of life – from our inner cities to our suburban communities. By making naloxone kits available at pharmacies, we’re expanding the availability of these kits, so they’re within closer reach of Albertans at risk.”

Brandy Payne, Associate Minister of Health

Naloxone can be used to temporarily reverse an overdose of fentanyl or other opioids, allowing a person time to get emergency medical help. Opioid users can obtain a take-home naloxone kit so it is on hand for a family member or friend to administer in case of a potentially deadly overdose. The kits are available to Albertans with a valid prescription from their doctor or a participating pharmacist. 

So far, almost 300 pharmacies have signed on to provide take-home naloxone kits and train people to use them safely. About 1,100 pharmacies in Alberta are eligible to participate in this voluntary program. Albertans can contact their local pharmacies to find out if they are offering the kits.

“Alberta’s pharmacists play a vital role in health care in our province and are well-positioned to provide take-home naloxone kits to Albertans who are at risk. Our members know very well how dangerous illicit fentanyl is, and how important it is that people have immediate access to naloxone.”

Jimy Mathews, President, Alberta Pharmacists’ Association

Alberta Health Services is providing the kits at a cost of about $27 each, including supplies and distribution. Each kit contains two units of naloxone, two syringes, two alcohol swabs, two latex gloves, a one-way breathing mask and instructions.

“This is another positive step in preventing fentanyl deaths. We know naloxone saves lives. Having it available in pharmacies means more Albertans using illicit fentanyl have a chance to have an overdose temporarily reversed and get medical help.”

Dr. Francois Belanger, Vice President Quality & Chief Medical Officer (Acting), Alberta Health Services

In 2015, there were 272 overdose deaths involving fentanyl in Alberta, up from 120 in 2014. Illicit fentanyl is highly toxic and a very small amount can be deadly.

Naloxone is also available at 44 walk-in clinics and eight harm reduction sites across the province by prescription. Increasing access to naloxone is one of many actions the Alberta government is taking with its partners to curb the impact of illicit fentanyl in the province. A Fentanyl Response Team, made up of frontline health care workers, communities, First Nations and Métis representatives, and health experts meets regularly to help coordinate the government’s actions. 

The Alberta government continues to work with the federal government – and provincial and territorial counterparts – to remove the prescription requirements for naloxone. Additional information on Alberta’s response is available on the Alberta Health website.

Listen to the news conference

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