Alberta Health Minister pleased fentanyl antidote may soon be prescription-free

Alberta Health Services has approved $300,000 to dispense naloxone, an antidote that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses. Global News

EDMONTON – Alberta’s health minister is reacting to news that Health Canada is proposing that a drug to combat an opioid overdose be made available without a prescription.

In a statement to Global News, Sarah Hoffman said she is pleased the federal government is moving towards the non-prescription use of the drug naloxone.

“Expanding access to naloxone is an important part of our government’s overall strategy for reducing accidental overdose deaths involving illicit fentanyl,” she said.

Alberta has been battling a fentanyl problem. In the first nine months of 2015, 213 people in the province died from fentanyl overdoses.

RELATED: ‘It is a huge issue’: 145 fentanyl-related deaths so far in 2015

In December, Alberta authorized more health professionals, such as emergency medical technicians, to administer the antidote. The ministerial orders were aimed at easing the drug’s distribution.

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READ MORE: Alberta Health Services says fentanyl antidote kits have saved lives

Hoffman said the province is working actively with the federal government as well as provincial partners to the change surrounding prescription requirements for the drug.

RELATED: Edmonton drug addiction agency sees spike in fentanyl cases

“Yesterday’s announcement by Health Canada brings us one step closer to Albertans being able to get naloxone without a prescription,” she said.

Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller normally administered to treat pain in cancer patients but has become an increasingly popular street drug in Alberta.

Alberta Health Services says fentanyl’s potency makes it an especially dangerous opiate. It is about 100 times more toxic than morphine, heroin, or oxycodone.

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