News / Toronto

Fentanyl found in naloxone kit given out at pharmacy

A person received a naloxone kit, which is used to reverse opioid overdoses, on Monday from a Shoppers Drug Mart in an undisclosed location.

Naloxone kits are used to reverse opioid overdoses.

Torstar File

Naloxone kits are used to reverse opioid overdoses.

In what the province is calling an “isolated incident,” fentanyl was found in a naloxone kit assembled at a pharmacy, the Star has learned.

A person received a naloxone kit, which is used to reverse opioid overdoses, on Monday from a Shoppers Drug Mart in an undisclosed location in Ontario, only to find fentanyl inside.

Fentanyl is an opioid that has caused thousands of deaths in recent years, spurring concerns of a crisis across North America.

Opioids are medically used for pain relief, but people have also used them to get high.

In a statement, Shoppers Drug Mart called the incident “a considerable error, and one that absolutely should not have happened.”

The owner-pharmacist retrieved the fentanyl from the customer and apologized, the statement said.

“It is important that customers understand that this isolated event should not reduce their confidence in naloxone kits as an effective response for accidental opioid overdose.”

The Ontario College of Pharmacists is investigating the incident.

“The pharmacy is fully cooperating, and we’re confident that immediate action has been taken to begin to determine how it happened and what could have been done to prevent it,” said college spokesperson Todd Leach.

“We are not aware of similar incidents happening at any other pharmacies.”

According to multiple pharmacists at Shoppers Drug Mart across the GTA, the pharmacies order the components of the kit and assemble them in house.

“In most pharmacies, there is no access to fentanyl,” Laura Gallant, press secretary for Ontario’s ministry of health, said in a phone interview.

She said the pharmacy that gave away the kit with fentanyl inside had the opioid because it is close to a hospice where the drug is sometimes administered.

“This was an isolated incident at one location only and there is no known risk to the public,” she said in a statement.

Naloxone can be administered through injection or nasal spray, and kits are available for free at pharmacies, shelters and community agencies across the province.

The province distributed about 80,000 kits last year. At least 1,460 Canadians died from apparent opioid-related deaths in the first half of 2017, according to the latest report from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Between July and September 2017, there were 2,449 emergency department visits related to opioid overdoses in Ontario.

In August, the province invested $222 million into fighting the opioid crisis. This year, the province began providing naloxone kits to police and fire services.

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