News / Edmonton

Eased restrictions on fentanyl antidote naloxone at least a year away

Health Minister asked the federal government to consider making naloxone to be reclassified so it’s available without a prescription.

Nalxone is currently available only with a prescription.

Metro File

Nalxone is currently available only with a prescription.

It could be more than a year before a life-saving medication for fentanyl overdoses is available without a prescription, much longer then advocates and Health Minister Sarah Hoffman had hoped.

Last week, Hoffman asked the federal government to consider making naloxone, which can prevent fentanyl or any opioid overdose from becoming fatal, to be reclassified so it’s available without a prescription.

Health Canada launched a review of naloxone earlier this year, but the time frame for it is approximately 18 months. 

“The department commenced a review of the prescription-only status of the opioid overdose treatment naloxone and is approaching this matter on an urgent basis,” said Maryse Durette, a spokesperson for Health Canada in an emailed statement.  

Alberta had 213 fentanyl overdoses in the first nine months of this year. Durette said they are concerned about the rising number of deaths and believe changing naloxone’s status would help considerably in making it more available.

“A change in prescription status would be the first step in enabling provincial and territorial health authorities to make naloxone more widely available within their jurisdictions,” she said. 

Hoffman said they want the review done quickly, but are also looking at other steps.

"My office and ministry officials have been in contact with the federal government, asking them to fast track their review of naloxone's prescription-only status, but we are also exploring all other options to increase access to this life saving drug as soon as possible," she said.

Durette added that the review is not Health Canada’s only step to address the problem. 

“We’re also supporting the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse, a national research network aimed at improving the health of Canadians living with substance misuse,” she said.

The government is looking at education programs for prescribers of opioids, a national approach to the surveillance of prescription drugs and more pharmacy inspections. 

In Edmonton this weekend, two men were found dead and another is in hospital after police were called to a Jasper apartment building.

Staff Sgt. Randy Wickins said they quickly determined the death was not criminal in nature and believe it was the result of a drug overdose.

He said the investigation is now in the hands of the medical examiner.

More on