February 17, 2016 10:30 am
Updated: February 18, 2016 9:13 am

Alberta makes fentanyl antidote naloxone available in pharmacies

WATCH: Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne will provide information about a new program to expand access to take-home naloxone at a news conference in Calgary on Wednesday. Stefan Keyes has details on the announcement.

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CALGARY – The provincial government announced Wednesday that pharmacies across Alberta will now be providing take-home naloxone kits free-of-charge to those with prescriptions.

Naloxone is a life-saving drug that is used to temporarily reverse an overdose of fentanyl or other opioids, allowing the victim time to get emergency medical help.

Alberta’s Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne unveiled details of the new program at a Co-op pharmacy in Calgary’s Beltline community.

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“This is just one of the steps our government is taking to address the devastating impact fentanyl is having in our province,” Payne said. “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.”

It’s hoped opioid users will get a prescription and obtain a take-home kit, so that it’s on hand for family or friends to administer in case of an overdose.

The province said about 300 of 1,100 eligible pharmacies have signed on to carry the kits.

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,” Alberta Health Services’ Dr. Francois Belanger said. “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.”

Earlier this month, Alberta Health Services (AHS) said 29 walk-in clinics and eight harm reduction sites throughout Alberta would be distributing naloxone kits.

READ MORE: 29 Alberta clinics now offer naloxone kits for fentanyl overdose treatment

On Wednesday, AHS indicated the number of walk-in clinics where the kits were available had climbed to 44.

In 2015, there were 272 overdose deaths involving fentanyl in Alberta, up from 120 in 2014, according to AHS.

Watch below: Global’s ongoing coverage of the rise in fentanyl trafficking and related deaths in Alberta

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