NEW WESTMINSTER – To help save lives and prevent overdose deaths, take-home naloxone kits are now available at community pharmacies throughout British Columbia free to people who use opioids or are likely to witness an overdose, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy announced today.
“Our most urgent priority is to keep people alive, so we’re dramatically expanding easy access to naloxone,” Darcy said. “Bringing a friend or a loved one back from the brink of death can hinge on people knowing how to use a naloxone kit and having access to one – and making them available at local pharmacies makes them more accessible than ever.”
About 1,900 kits have been distributed to 220 pharmacies for the first time this month, including pharmacies in the London Drugs and Save-on-Foods chains, as well as a number of independent pharmacies. Under this expansion of the Take Home Naloxone program, pharmacists provide kits free-of-charge to people who are eligible, as well as training in overdose recognition and response.
“Take-home naloxone kits are a key harm-reduction measure in our multi-pronged approach to combat the overdose crisis and have saved countless lives,” said Dr. Jane Buxton, BC Centre for Disease Control harm reduction lead. “Through this new collaboration, naloxone will now be readily available at more locations, making it easier for people to look out for each other and be safer.”
To receive a free naloxone kit, British Columbians can visit a participating pharmacy and talk to a pharmacist to determine their eligibility. No-cost kits are available for people who use opioids or are likely to witness and respond to an overdose. To ensure privacy, identifying information about the person receiving the kit is not tracked.
“B.C. pharmacies play a significant role in being a part of the solution in the opioid crisis as one of the most accessible health-care providers in nearly every community across the province,” said Geraldine Vance, BC Pharmacy Association chief executive officer. “Pharmacists are trained, experienced and knowledgeable, not only in medication but in providing an essential health-care service to our patients and to our community. Providing the life-saving naloxone kit from the community pharmacy level to treat opioid overdose is an important step in dealing with the current crisis.”
“London Drugs is pleased to partner with the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and the BC Pharmacy Association to implement this take-home naloxone kit program across British Columbia,” said Chris Chiew, London Drugs, pharmacy general manager. “We know that distribution through pharmacies increases naloxone accessibility to opioid users, their family and friends, and people who could witness an overdose. Naloxone kits will be available at all London Drugs pharmacies across the province empowering as many individuals as possible to respond in the event of an overdose.”
All of the province’s pharmacies are being encouraged to participate. No-charge naloxone kits also continue to be available at harm-reduction sites, local health units, hospital emergency departments, corrections facilities and First Nations sites.
The expansion of the Take Home Naloxone Program into pharmacies is part of a new $322- million provincial investment over the next three years to address the overdose crisis. About $2 million per year has been allocated to increase access to naloxone, including through this new partnership between the BC Pharmacy Association and the BC Centre for Disease Control.
Broader access to naloxone is key to the provincial response, now being co-ordinated through the new provincial Overdose Emergency Response Centre. Additional areas of focus include expanding access to opioid substitution medications to treat opioid addiction, opening more overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites, expanding access to drug checking services, proactively identifying and supporting people at risk of overdose, and improving the system of treatment and recovery services.
- Naloxone reverses life-threatening respiratory depression due to an overdose from opioids, such as heroin, methadone, fentanyl and morphine. When administered along with rescue breaths, naloxone can restore breathing within a few minutes.
- More than 57,000 take-home naloxone kits have been given out since the Take Home Naloxone Program’s inception in 2012, including 22,540 kits in 2016 and 29,292 so far in 2017. Until now, kits have been available at harm-reduction sites, local health units, hospital emergency departments, corrections facilities and First Nations sites.
- There are now about 830 take-home naloxone distribution sites in B.C., with 298 new sites added in 2016, and 430 so far in 2017, including community pharmacies.
- Take-home naloxone kits have been reported used to reverse over 11,000 overdoses.
For pharmacies wishing to participate in the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org
for information on registration, logistical questions and distribution details.
The BC College of Pharmacists website provides a list of resources relating to naloxone, including a naloxone FAQ and optional patient hand-outs: www.bcpharmacists.org/naloxone