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.
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.
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.