Pharmasave launches campaign urging Ontarians to speak with their pharmacist about an opioid drug overdose rescue kit
Toronto, Ont., With the incidence of opioid-related drug overdose deaths on the rise nationally, reaching the magnitude of what the Canadian government is calling a public health emergency, a leading Canadian pharmacy company is urging Ontarians to help do something about it.
It's as simple as speaking with your pharmacist about an opioid drug overdose rescue kit - called a Naloxone kit - available free of charge at your local pharmacy, says Pharmasave, which is working to raise awareness of and address issues related to the opioid crisis.
Anyone at risk of an opioid overdose, or who knows or may encounter someone at risk, should have a Naloxone kit. Pharmacists will provide the necessary training.
"Just as every home has a first aid kit, people need to consider if they should also have a Naloxone kit - it can actually save lives," said Billy Cheung, Executive Director, Pharmacy, Marketing & Professional Affairs of Pharmasave Ontario. "The kit is portable and can also be taken with you wherever you go."
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there were 4,460 opioid-related deaths last year, with 1,471 of those occurring in Ontario alone. Seventy-three per cent of accidental opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl or fentanyl analogues.
"There's a common public misconception that opioid overdoses only affect people on the street, but in reality, anyone can be at risk - from teenagers looking for an escape or recreational high, to people in their 30s and 40s taking prescription pain relievers for acute injuries, to seniors on chronic opioid treatment," Cheung said.
He explained that whether taken for pain relief or social reasons, opioids - which include methadone, fentanyl, Tylenol 1, 2, 3, and 4, Dilaudid, heroine, Percocet, oxycodone, and others - are highly addictive. When misused they can slow down and ultimately stop a person's breathing.
Naloxone is a non-prescription medicine that, when taken soon after an overdose, can save a life. The kit is available in both an injectable and nasal spray form of the medication, both of which are simple to administer and work quickly to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Ontarians with a health card are eligible for a free take-home Naloxone kit through the Ontario Naloxone Pharmacy Program.
"We're urging everyone to drop in and see your pharmacist, speak to them about the kit, and potentially help save a life in an emergency," Cheung said, adding that Pharmasave Ontario has already provided more than 20,000 Naloxone kits to Ontarians to date.
Cheung offers this advice to avoid misusing - and potentially overdosing on - opioids:
Take opioid pain medications only as prescribed by a doctor, and only for as long as you need them.
Make an appointment with your pharmacist to review your opioid medications, and discuss how to better manage them in order to minimize reliance and gradually taper off use.
Consider purchasing a lock box, or using a locked cabinet, to ensure all opioid medications are out of reach and sight of children and adolescents at home.
More information on Naloxone kits and how to manage prescription opioid use can be found at www.pharmasave.com.
About Pharmasave Ontario (www.pharmasave.com)
Pharmasave Ontario is the province's fastest-growing community pharmacy company, with more than 350 stores province-wide. The company's unique member-owned and governed cooperative, coupled with a strong belief that personal touch and technology go hand in hand, are behind our winning formula for success. With more than 650 stores nationally, Pharmasave is committed to the residents and communities it serves, offering the most complete programs, services and support available to independent pharmacists. At the same time, members are independent business owners, free to customize their products and services according to the specific needs of their clientele.