Manitoba

Opioid overdose antidote to move to easier access on pharmacy shelves in Manitoba

Changes to the way the opioid overdose antidote naloxone is classified in Manitoba will allow it to be sold off store shelves without the supervision of a health-care professional, the provincial government announced on Wednesday.

Currently, naloxone must be handed out by health-care professionals like pharmacists

Legislative changes in Manitoba will allow naloxone kits to be sold off store shelves without the supervision of a health-care professional. (Christine Rankin)

Changes to the way the opioid overdose antidote naloxone is classified in Manitoba will allow stores to sell it off the shelf without the supervision of a health-care professional, the provincial government announced on Wednesday.

Currently, naloxone is classified as a Schedule II drug in Manitoba, meaning it can only be sold in pharmacies and must be handed out by a health-care professional, such as a pharmacist.

Legislative changes will make naloxone an unscheduled drug, meaning naloxone overdose kits can be sold at any retail outlets, making it easier to access.

Addictions advocates have called on the government to make the life-saving drug easier to access. Emergency calls related to opioids have surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, and paramedics in Winnipeg have increasingly used naloxone to treat suspected opioid cases.

Naloxone temporarily reverses the slowed breathing caused by opioid overdoses.

Making the drug easier to access will reduce stigma and encourage those who need it to take it, Health Minister Cameron Friesen said in a news release.

"Delisting naloxone brings this critical life-saving medication into the hands of Manitobans, and improving its accessibility is another step in combatting the opioid crisis that is afflicting so many of our loved ones," Dr. Ginette Poulin, medical director with the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, said in a news release. 

The provincial government introduced a program in 2017 that allowed take-home naloxone kits to be sold in Manitoba pharmacies. There were 125 registered sites for selling naloxone in Manitoba as of November.

Earlier this month, the province passed the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, enabling it to join a class-action lawsuit brought by British Columbia against 40 drug manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of opioids in Canada.

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