Easy but expensive: Narcan spray not funded in opioid crisis
Not all life-saving naloxone kits are created the same and not all of them are provided free in Alberta. A group of pharmacists in the province is hoping to change that.
They were giving out samples of Narcan nasal spray at Arrival Park on Edmonton's Whyte Avenue Thursday to show how easy it is to use.
They were also shedding light on the fact that while Ontario and Quebec provide the one-step kit for free, Alberta, with a rising opioid death rate of about two people per day, does not.
The tent where the pharmacists gave out the kit was also being manned by representatives of the pharmaceutical company that imports the kits, Adapt Pharma Canada Limited.
One pharmacist on shift at the sponsored booth believes the nasal spray gives the public a much easier-to-use alternative at what is likely a stressful overdose moment.
"You have to take some steps to inject a syringe…Normal people under pressure, it’s not an easy job," said pharmacist Ahmed Fattah, as he showed how to use the plastic-wrapped push-button nasal sprayer. “It’s so easy for anyone. We just peel it like this. It comes ready to use, in one single dose.”
Impressed enough to stop at the Whyte Avenue booth after spotting it as she drove by, registered nurse Bobbi Stoppard grabbed two kits to show to colleagues.
“I have worked in emergency and critical care, so I have seen the sad outcomes, the tragic outcomes, where something like this could have made a phenomenal difference to the outcome,” said Stoppard.
She wondered if Alberta Health might be considering funding the nasal sprayers for public distribution.
“I am sure hoping that our government can assess the availability and the methods in which they can make it accessible to the public, because I believe having it in the hands of these communities and families that have vulnerable persons would be fantastic.”
But a spokesperson for Alberta’s health minister told CTV News that expert advice on the opioid crisis shows naloxone injection kits are effective.
“At present, we have no plans to fund nasal spray to the public,” said press secretary Steve Buick.
He cited the cost as a barrier to offering the kits for free, because they’re about four times more expensive than the injectable naloxone.
The Edmonton-area pharmacists at the sponsored Whyte Avenue booth told CTV News that each Narcan nasal spray costs between $140 and $145 at local drugstores.
Buick said if studies in other provinces show the nasal spray works, Alberta’s position might change.
"If the experience in Quebec and Ontario shows any real advantage, than we would look at that,” he said.