Beginning Friday, May 13, Albertans will be able to get take-home naloxone kits from community pharmacies for free, and without a prescription.
Naloxone can be used to temporarily reverse an overdose of fentanyl or other opioids, allowing the victim time to get emergency medical help.
The province said fentanyl has led to the deaths of 69 people in the first three months of 2016. In 2015, there were 274 fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta.
“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,” Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne said.
“Our hope is that removing the prescription requirement will encourage more people to access these potentially life-saving kits.”
About 100 times more potent than morphine and 20 times more powerful than OxyContin, fentanyl is a synthetic opiate narcotic primarily prescribed to those with chronic pain. It’s known on the street as green beans, green jellies or street Oxy, and can often show up in other drugs.
The government announced Wednesday is will also provide $3 million in funding 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 Alberta communities where the need is greatest.
Naloxone kits will be available to those at risk of overdosing on fentanyl or other opioids. Friends and family members will also be able to obtain naloxone kits for loved ones at risk.
READ MORE: Fentanyl 101: The facts and dangers
Albertans are asked to phone the pharmacy ahead of time to ensure kits are available.
“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,” Rick Hackman, president of the Alberta College of Pharmacists, said.
Alberta is the second province in Canada to allow naloxone to be provided without a prescription. British Columbia was the first.
Alberta has more than 700 naloxone distribution sites, including community pharmacies, walk-in clinics, and harm reduction agencies. More than 2,000 naloxone kits have been provided to Albertans since the summer of 2015.
The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams has seized more than 18,000 fentanyl pills in Alberta between last February and April 16 of this year.
For more information on the take-home naloxone program, visit the Alberta government’s website.