Skip to main content

Canada Health Canada to review status of overdose-reversing drug

Health Canada is reviewing the prescription-only status of an antidote used to treat drug overdoses. The contents of a drug overdose rescue kit is seen at a training session in Buffalo, N.Y., on how to administer naloxone, which reverses the effects of heroin and prescription painkillers, in this May 13, 2015 photo.

Carolyn Thompson/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Health Canada will review the prescription-only status of naloxone, a drug that reverses heroin and other opioid overdoses.

Many provinces have called for better access to the drug, which can reverse an overdose in one or two minutes. Without it, a user's breathing could slow or stop, leading to brain damage or death.

In B.C., a take-home naloxone program coming up on its three-year anniversary has been credited with reversing at least 240 overdoses, though the true figure is believed to be much higher.

Story continues below advertisement

As of this summer, more than 4,000 people have been trained to administer naloxone as part of the take-home program, including both opioid users and their friends, families and service providers.

There are now 80 sites where users who have a prescription from a doctor can pick up the kits. About 2,400 kits have been dispensed since August, 2012.

A common concern has been that only opioid users who are at risk of overdosing can be prescribed the drug, while it would likely be a friend or parter who would administer it should the user overdose.

Naloxone given in the absence of opioids produces no effect. In B.C., all ambulance crews can carry and administer the drug, but police officers and firefighters cannot.

Health Canada said it is typically a drug manufacturer that requests a status change, but the federal health department can initiate a review at any time.

"In this case, several provinces have requested that Health Canada consider the switch in status could be made safely and help reduce unnecessary deaths caused by overdose," the department said in a news release issued Friday.

Jane Buxton, harm-reduction lead at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, said it was "great news" that Health Canada will review the drug's status.

Story continues below advertisement

"They have been receiving requests from many directions to consider changing to non-prescription," Dr. Buxton wrote in an email.

Health Canada said it will first gather information about naloxone use from various provinces for an initial assessment. It it finds that benefits of expanding access appear to outweigh potential risks, it would then hold a public consultation.

The full process could take 18 months.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter