By Breanne Massey

Pioneer Staff

The goal of reducing the fatal effects of an opioid overdose among the B.C. drug-using community has recently gained momentum.

Health Canada revised the Federal Prescription Drug List on March 22nd to make a non-prescription version of naloxone, which is the life-saving antidote commonly being used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, more accessible to Canadians to improve the provinces efforts to address the growing number of opioid overdoses.

It was important to make this life-saving drug more widely available in British Columbia, said Blake Reynolds, College of Pharmacists of BC chair, in a recent press release. The College worked closely with government and other stakeholders to bring non-prescription naloxone to B.C. quickly. Now, community pharmacies across B.C. will be able to provide naloxone to anyone seeking it.

The College of Pharmacists of BC amended B.C.s Drug Schedules Regulation to classify non-prescription naloxone as a Schedule II drug to make non-prescription naloxone available, making B.C. one of the first provinces in Canada to make non-prescription naloxone available thanks to collaborative work from Health Canada, the Ministry of Health, BC Centre for Disease Control and patient advocacy groups including the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users and the BC Association of Persons on Methadone.

We are very pleased that naloxone will be available through community pharmacies without a prescription, said Jessica Bridgeman, Harm Reduction Co-ordinator with Interior Health.

The new regulations mean that anyone, including friends and family members of opioid users, can get trained, purchase naloxone and be able to respond to an opioid overdose. The more people who have access to naloxone the more lives can be saved.

The East Kootenay Addictions Services Society (EKASS) executive director based in Cranbrook, Dean Nicholson, believes the projected changes are a positive first step toward improving safety for people suffering opioid overdoses.

I think its great, explained Mr. Nicholson. Its making the medication more accessible to the people without a prescription and given the potential it has to save lives I think the fewer barriers the better. Were waiting to hear what that means in terms of training to use the medication.

He is optimistic to see the Centre for Disease Control will be releasing further information about the education that is becoming available this spring.

Moving it from being a prescription medication to something that people can get through the pharmacy is the right move towards making it more accessible to people, said Mr. Nicholson.

The pharmacy announcement is separate from the Take Home Naloxone program being administered regionally through Interior Health, which was reported on in the March 25th Pioneer. B.C.s Take Home Naloxone program has trained over 6,500 people to recognize and respond to overdoses using naloxone 488 overdoses have been reversed since the programs inception.