In a fantastic step forward, Health Canada has announced the Naloxone Federal prescription status review results – and it's great news. Effective immediately, Naloxone is now available in Canada without a prescription.
News broke during the summer of 2015 that Health Canada would be launching an 18 month review period of Naloxone's Federal Prescription-only status. This particular review is somewhat unique, as it is typically a drug manufacturer that makes a status change request to Health Canada, which was not the case in this situation. The Federal Health Department initiated this review on their own, albeit at the urging of several provinces.
"The large increase in opioid overdose episodes has prompted the provinces to design programs to provide greater access to naloxone at the site of the overdose, either through first responders or “take-home programs”. These programs are hindered by the prescription status of naloxone. The provinces and territories have collectively asked Health Canada to re-evaluate the status of naloxone." – Health Canada
The process had Health Canada gather information about Naloxone and its usage from the provinces in order to hold an assessment. If the benefits are found to out weight the risks, it would then proceed to a public consultation. Any organization or persons interested were encouraged to submit comments and suggestions to Health Canada throughout the public consultation period of the review, which ran until March 19, 2016, and received over 130 responses. In January 2016, Health Canada announced that the department would "waive the six-month implementation period that follows a change in a drug's status when the consultation period ends in mid-March."
The big news when Health Canada's decision finally broke on March 22, 2016 — effective immediately, Naloxone will be available in Canada without a doctor's prescription!
While this is amazing news and an undeniable step forward, the battle is far from over. In order to make Naloxone's change in prescription status as impactful as possible, we absolutely must continue to reduce the barriers currently in place that prevent Naloxone accessibility. A report entitled "Prescription For Life" outlines several steps that need to be taken in order to ensure Naloxone reaches those who need it most. The first recommendation being to add Naloxone to the Provincial, Federal and Veterans formularies in order to make the drug affordable. Even if Naloxone is available over-the-counter, if it is not affordable to those who need it, it can't save lives.