Province improves and expands access to naloxone, opioid treatment and counselling
Beginning this Friday, Albertans will be able to get take-home naloxone kits free-of-charge from community pharmacies without a prescription.
The province is also providing $3 million to Alberta Health Services to support the Opioid Dependency Treatment Plan Strategy, a three-year project that will expand counselling services and access to suboxone and methadone treatment in several communities where the need is greatest. By the end of the first year, an additional 240 Albertans are expected to be receiving opioid replacement treatment; an increase of 20 per cent from the number currently being treated at existing AHS clinics.
“Too many lives have been cut short by fentanyl, and too many families have lost loved ones. We know naloxone saves lives, so our strategy from the outset has been to make it more accessible. Our hope is that removing the prescription requirement will encourage more people to access these potentially life-saving kits. It is also our intention that by providing greater access to treatment and counselling, this further supports people struggling with opioid addiction and their families.”
Naloxone kits can be used to temporarily reverse overdoses of fentanyl or other opioids, so people have time to seek emergency help.
The kits are free of charge and are available to any Albertan who is at risk of overdosing on fentanyl or other opioids. The Alberta College of Pharmacists’ Standards of Practice allow Schedule 2 drugs to be dispensed or sold to patients’ agents. As a result of this change, friends and family members can obtain naloxone kits for loved ones at risk. Albertans are encouraged to call ahead to their local pharmacies to ensure kits are available.
“Pharmacists play an integral role in the delivery of care to Albertans. These regulatory changes enhance community-based access to naloxone – a fundamental move that will impact those individuals and families who need help, and mitigate the escalation of deaths that have been observed in our province.”
In order to allow naloxone to be classified as a Schedule 2 non-prescription drug, the province has amended The Scheduled Drugs Regulation to the Pharmacy and Drug Act. Alberta is the second province in Canada to allow naloxone to be provided without a prescription.
Expanding access to naloxone is part of Alberta’s overall approach to curbing the harms caused by illicit fentanyl and other opioids. The province also continues to focus on
- raising public awareness about the dangers of fentanyl;
- improving access to treatment; and
- reducing the supply and trafficking of fentanyl.
Alberta’s health minister recently extended ministerial orders that were initially put into place in December, authorizing
- registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to prescribe naloxone;
- paramedics to distribute naloxone; and
- emergency medical technicians and emergency medical responders to administer and distribute naloxone.
Provincial action to prevent overdoses and deaths
- Since December 2015, Alberta has tripled its supply of naloxone kits, from 3,000 to 9,000.
- Alberta has more than 700 naloxone distribution sites, including community pharmacies, walk-in clinics, and harm reduction agencies. Together, they have provided more than 2,000 naloxone kits to Albertans since the summer of 2015.
- Alberta Health and AHS continue to work in cooperation with Health Canada and First Nations communities to ensure naloxone is available to First Nations people on and off reserve.
- Alberta Health Services continues its public education efforts through drugsfool.ca, paid advertising, and information and resources for health professionals.