April 11, 2017
More than 28,000 Kits Distributed Across Province to Help Reduce Opioid Deaths
Ontario is expanding access to naloxone, a life-saving drug that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose, by providing it free of charge to anyone in need in over 200 cities and towns across the province.
Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, was joined today by Marie-France Lalonde, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, at Shoppers Drug Mart today to raise awareness about Ontario’s naloxone programs and to encourage more people who are at risk of an opioid overdose, as well as their friends and families, to pick up a free kit.
As of the end of March 2017, more than 28,000 naloxone kits had been dispensed free of charge at over 1,000 pharmacies, and at 40 public health units and community-based organizations that run needle exchange and hepatitis C programs. In addition, more than 500 naloxone kits have also been distributed at 10 provincial correctional facilities to at-risk inmates at the time of their release. By the end of spring 2017, all 26 provincial correctional facilities will be able to distribute naloxone kits.
Expanding access to opioid overdose medication is part of Ontario’s Strategy to Prevent Opioid Addiction and Overdose. As part of this strategy, Ontario has also:
- Delisted high-strength opioids from the Ontario Drug Benefit formulary to help prevent addiction and support appropriate prescribing.
- Launched a comprehensive website about Ontario’s naloxone kit programs, which includes information on how to use naloxone kits, how to prevent an opioid overdose and a searchable list of where kits are available across the province.
- Placed stricter controls on the prescribing and dispensing of fentanyl patches. Patients are now required to return used fentanyl patches to their pharmacy before more patches can be dispensed.
Preventing opioid overdoses is part of the government’s plan to build a better Ontario through its Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care, which provides patients with faster access to the right care; better home and community care; the information they need to live healthy; and a health care system that is sustainable for generations to come.
- Ontario’s first comprehensive Opioid Strategy to Prevent Opioid Addiction and Overdose includes initiatives to enhance data collection, modernize prescribing and dispensing practices and connect patients with high quality addiction treatment services.
- Opioids are drugs that are intended to treat pain. Some commonly used opioids include fentanyl, morphine, heroin, methadone and oxycodone.
- When someone overdoses after taking an opioid, their breathing slows or stops. Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily allow the person to breathe normally and regain consciousness, providing precious time to seek emergency medical attention to treat the overdose.
- Anyone who gets a naloxone kit through one of Ontario’s programs will also receive training on how to recognize an opioid overdose and how to use the naloxone kit.
- Ontario recently announced an investment of $140 million over three years to support mental health and addiction initiatives, which will be followed by a sustained increase in funding of $50 million annually.
“I’d like to thank the many health care workers in our communities who are helping to save lives by getting naloxone kits to the people who need them. Ontario’s naloxone programs are an integral part of our comprehensive strategy to prevent opioid overdoses by putting people and patients first.”
— Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
“The opioid crisis is a growing threat, and our government now has naloxone kits available in 10 correctional institutions. We will make naloxone available at all of our 26 correctional institutions this spring. Vulnerable people need access to this this life-saving drug, and providing inmates with naloxone kits upon discharge from our correctional facilities will save lives.”
— Marie-France Lalonde, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
“Approximately one in every 170 deaths in Ontario is opioid-related. If we are going to reverse this troubling trend, the entire health care system must continue to work together. Distributing naloxone kits to those at risk of an overdose and their friends and families is an important step in the right direction.”
— Provincial Overdose Coordinator Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health
“We are seeing a gradual, sustained increase in the number of opioid deaths in the province. It is important that everyone knows about and has access to all potential tools in the battle against this serious public health problem.”
— Dr. Dirk Huyer, Chief Coroner for Ontario
“With the growing focus on opioid addiction and overdose across the country, pharmacists and programs such as the Ontario Naloxone in Pharmacies Program are critical parts of a broader opioid strategy. Ontario’s community pharmacists are ideally positioned to provide training, support and information regarding this lifesaving drug. Patients who are at risk for an opioid overdose, no matter what the reason, should talk to their pharmacist about getting a free naloxone kit.”
— Allan Malek, Senior Vice President, Professional Affairs, Ontario Pharmacists Association