Naloxone nasal spray could soon be available in Canada

By Jill Sperling
July 7, 2016 - 10:23am Updated: July 7, 2016 - 6:27pm

KAMLOOPS — Health Canada is expediting the approval of naloxone nasal spray. 

Naloxone is a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and is currently only available in an injectable form in Canada. 

The nasal spray, which is easier to administer, is available in the United States. 

It was at a conference in Portland two years ago that Kira Haug first heard about naloxone nasal spray, and now soon, Canadians will also have access to it.

"You just put it in the nose and you would release the drug, and it does the exact same work as injection naloxone" says Haug, the harm reduction coordinator at ASK Wellness.

The nasal spray costs more than injectable naloxone, which can be purchased at local pharmacies for about $45. But the spray would be a benefit for people who may have issues with needles.

"If they were nervous around that, around blood, that would be a really great solution," says Haug. "It's way less invasive in terms of delivery method. Also, you've reduced the risk of further transference of blood-born infections."

B.C. Health Minister, Terry Lake, says there is a risk associated with the nasal spray. 

"It's non-addictive," Lake said, "but the one danger is that it is not as available in the bloodstream of the patient receiving it as the injectable form, so there may be a risk that people might believe that they are reversing the effects and it's not getting into the bloodstream in a high enough dose."

Lake says injecting naloxone is likely the more effective option. Staff at ASK Wellness will still be recommending the naloxone kits, which have worked to save hundreds of lives in Kamloops, not to mention the rest of the province. 

"If we look at the numbers of our clients coming in and speaking to their frontline workers saying, 'last night three people went down and three people were reversed.' If that's happening all the time, I know there's been hundreds," says Haug. 

It's been a stressful year for Huag and everyone at ASK Wellness. 18 people have died from fentanyl overdoses up until the end of May. 

But they hope with this new naloxone nasal spray, and further education about the fentanyl crisis, even more lives can be saved with a busy rest of the summer ahead. 

"I'm excited for all of these advancements, whether it be the nasal spray or just having more readily available access to kits."

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