Alberta looking at expanding availability of drug used to stop fentanyl overdoses

With a troubling rise in fentanyl overdoses and deaths, the province is looking at ways to expand the availability of naloxone, a drug that can stop overdoses in their tracks.

Dr. Michael Trew, chief addiction and mental health officer for Alberta health, said the province is looking at ways to expand access to naloxone, which works like an antidote in the event of a fantanyl overdose.

But, he said, making such a change would be difficult. “We need to be sure we have got ourselves worked through this before we make any final call,” he said.

Streetworks, an Edmonton needle-exchange program, has been distributing the drug for more than 10 years. But Trew said it would be much different if naloxone was being used more widely.

“Going from distributing this from a small, not-for profit organization like Streetworks to supporting it as a provincial program has some complications,” he said. The drug requires a prescription and some doctors might be uncomfortable writing them, Trew added.

Distributing naloxone to ambulances would also be potentially difficult, because not all ambulance workers could administer it.

With all of that in mind, Trew said the province realizes there is a real problem.

“This is about trying to save lives, so nobody is taking this lightly."