Ontario is making naloxone available in pharmacies across the province without a prescription and at no cost to eligible Ontarians to help reduce opioid overdoses across the province. This is following a decision taken by the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities’ (NAPRA).
On June 24, 2016, NAPRA reclassified naloxone as a Schedule II drug when used in an emergency opioid overdose situation outside of hospital settings. This change was effective immediately in Ontario. As a result, naloxone can now be kept behind the counter in Ontario pharmacies and the province’s pharmacists can now provide training on how to safely administer the drug. People at risk of an overdose (or their concerned family members or peers) will not need a prescription and will not pay anything when receiving naloxone.
“Our government takes the issue of opioid drug abuse and misuse very seriously. I’m encouraged to see the federal government respond to the request to reclassify naloxone to expand access to this important drug. Expanding access to naloxone can save lives, which is why Ontario is taking steps to ensure naloxone is more widely available at pharmacies across the province,”
Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, said in a statement.
The province recognizes that opioid addiction and overdose is a serious public health concern. An overdose of opioid drugs – such as fentanyl, morphine, heroin, methadone or oxycodone – can cause a person’s breathing to slow or stop. Naloxone is an injectable medication that can reverse this effect so the person can breathe more normally and potentially regain consciousness. This provides precious time to seek emergency medical attention to treat the overdose.
Last year, Ontario joined other provinces and territories in calling for Health Canada to remove the prescription status of naloxone. Previously, naloxone was available only by prescription or through the Ontario Naloxone Program.
- Ontario expedited the availability and funding of naloxone in some pharmacies at the beginning of June 2016.
- The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is working to support naloxone availability at Ontario pharmacies.
- Naloxone will continue to be made available without charge at needle exchange programs and ministry-funded multidisciplinary hepatitis C teams across Ontario through the Ontario Naloxone Program.
- Pharmacists are expected to use their professional judgement when providing all medications to their patients. The Ontario College of Pharmacists offers support to pharmacists, including access to appropriate training resources for the safe use of naloxone. – CINEWS