EDMONTON – The Alberta government said it is welcome news that an antidote to treat fentanyl overdoses will soon be available without a prescription.
On Tuesday, Health Canada announced naloxone will no longer require a prescription from a doctor. The drug is used to reverse the effects of a fentanyl overdose.
The decision was made after public consultations with more than 130 health groups, nurses, doctors, pharmacists and those affected by an opioid overdose. All were in favour of removing the antidote from the Prescription Drug List.
In a statement, Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said she is pleased with the decision made by Health Canada.
“We are pleased by Health Canada’s decision to remove its prescription requirements for naloxone. An important part of our overall fentanyl response is to make it as easy as possible for Albertans to get take-home naloxone kits – and we’ve been voicing our support for this change for many months,” she said.
Nichole Marks is a part of Student Advocates for Public Health, a group at the University of Alberta. He welcomed the development, but also pointed out the antidote, which is currently injected through a needle, should be made easier to use and be offered in other formats like a nasal spray.
“We need to make sure naloxone is available in easy-to-use forms,” Marks said. “Right now, we know the vial and needle method can be very cumbersome to use and near impossible for someone who’s overdosing to use on themselves.”
Hoffman said the department is working to change provincial regulations to make naloxone available without a prescription so Albertans can get the drug directly from a pharmacist.
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Right now, it is only available through a doctor or, if someone is overdosing, through the administration of a first responder.
Details are expected to be finalized by this spring.
Last year, 272 people died from a fentanyl overdose in Alberta.
-with files from Su-Ling Goh and Phil Heidenreich