The GNWT has confirmed to The Moose that kits of the life-saving drug naloxone, which temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, will be made available throughout the NWT as of Wednesday.
“Distribution is expected to begin on December 21 to all NWT retail pharmacies, health centres, clinics, hospitals and health cabins,” the Department of Health and Social Services told Moose FM in an email.
“(We) are working to ensure health care providers and pharmacists have the available resources to provide the naloxone injection kits and teaching to the public.”
Injectable naloxone has been available behind the counter at pharmacies without a prescription in the Northwest Territories since June.
However, for smaller communities without a pharmacy, take-home kits are their only options to have access to the drug. If a pharmacy doesn’t carry them, residents are out of luck.
Ambulances in Yellowknife currently carry naloxone, but the NWT’s chief public health officer Dr. André Corriveau says that making the drug available in people’s homes saves precious minutes when there’s no time to spare.
“When you have an overdose with a powerful narcotic, people stop breathing so you don’t have a lot of time to call an ambulance,” Corriveau explained.
“If you know people are using in your house, obviously there has to be someone who’s sober, but it’s certainly an additional protection to have somebody who’s able to provide naloxone.”
The drug is not a cure for an overdose, but gives the person time to seek out medical attention.
The take home kits are free, and contain a preloaded syringe of naloxone along with instructions on how to inject it. Corriveau described it as being similar to an epipen.
Pharmacists and healthcare providers will require training on how to use the kits, and will in turn offer guidance to people when they first pick them up. The GNWT says this training will happen in a ‘phased approach’, with more information becoming available in the New Year.
Easy-to-use version temporarily available
While the territory waits for injectable naloxone kits to roll out, an intra-nasal or ‘nasal spray’ version of the drug will be temporarily available free of charge behind the counter at pharmacies.
The spray does not require the same amount of training to administer, and Corriveau says is easier to use.
However, the spray is only available in limited supply throughout the NWT for the time; the department of Health and Social Services says that a total of 120 boxes of the spray, containing two doses each, were made available in total throughout the NWT.
This is because it is only imported from the US by a few suppliers, and is not available throughout Canada’s regular distribution systems.
“This is an interim measure until we can transition to take home injectable naloxone kits,” read a GNWT press release.
Only a small supply of the intra-nasal spray will be made available to fill the gap until take home injectable naloxone kits become readily available everywhere.