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Health department to study efficacy of Naxolone kits

The instruction sheet contained in Naloxone kits that are now available for free at pharmacies and health centres in the NWT. Pharmacists or public health workers give the kits to anyone who needs them, with a short training on how to administer the medication. Photo courtesy Northern Health.

A government group is studying how well Naxolone kits are working.

The opioid overdose kits are available at no charge at health centres and pharmacies in the territory. The group will is gearing up to start monitoring the number of kits being used and what the outcome of their use is.

Health and Social Services communications manager Damien Healy told Yellowknifer 228 Naxolone kits have been distributed to pharmacies and health centres across the territory, although he was not able to give a breakdown of how many kits are available at each location.

“To see who is actually using them and if it's working would be a real good stat for us,” he said.

Monitoring the use of the kits was one of three priorities discussed recently at a monthly meeting of the NWT Opioid Misuse and Overdose Task Group, the other two being public awareness and harm reduction.

Naloxone reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids including fentanyl, heroin, methadone and morphine. The kits are small, hard cases the size of a sunglasses case. Inside are three syringes, three doses of Naloxone contained in plastic ampoules, a breathing mask and instructions on how to administer the substance.

All Yellowknife pharmacies said they carry Naloxone kits, although most declined to comment on how many they have in stock. The pharmacy at Trevor's Your Independent Grocer received five kits and has seven nasal kits from a previous order, while the Medicine Shoppe carries from one to five kits at any given time. When asked how much interest they had seen, the pharmacies who responded said they had seen some interest but not a very high demand.

According to Healy, part of the group's work is to look at how to improve access to Naloxone.

“To see if we have them in the right places, to monitor and track if they're being used, and the number and quantity, and to make sure people feel comfortable getting them,” he said.

A video series, starting with an instructional video on how to administer Naloxone, will become available starting this week. Healy said the group hopes to show the videos in movie theatres in Hay River and Yellowknife, as well as in schools.

There are still a few things for the group to work out, including age limits for access. The task group has not set a minimum age for picking up Naloxone from health centres, in pharmacies it is up to the individual establishment. Another debate is whether to use the injectable antidote or move to a nasal spray, something the task group is evaluating.

The group is headed by the NWT's chief public health officer Andre Corriveau. It has met on a monthly basis since December 2016. The group was established after Yellowknife saw eight overdoses within 48 hours in late November last year, all caused by fentanyl.

Healy said there have been no overdose deaths associated with opioids reported since January.