Availability of naloxone in Canadian pharmacies:a population-based survey – 2017

Background: Naloxone is life-saving when administered after opioid overdose. In March 2016, the Canadian government made the antidote available without prescription, but anecdotal reports suggest members of the public have difficulty in procuring it. We examined the availability of naloxone in community pharmacies across Canada.

Methods: We identified community pharmacies in Canada (n = 10 296) and randomly selected 506, stratified using proportionate allocation by population size. We excluded pharmacies in Alberta and Manitoba because these provinces released data indicating which pharmacies made naloxone available to the public during the data collection phase of the study. We contacted pharmacies by telephone during working hours and used a standardized survey to enquire about the availability of naloxone, the associated cost and the need for a prescription. When a pharmacy did not have naloxone available, we ascertained if it could be procured within 7 days.

Results: We contacted 429 community pharmacies. Of these, 103 (24.0%) had naloxone available. Availability was highest in British Columbia (33 of 65; 50.8%), followed by the Maritimes (12 of 35; 34.3%), Ontario (52 of 193; 26.9%) and central and northern Canada (5 of 21; 23.8%). In Quebec, 1 of 115 (0.9%) pharmacies had naloxone available. Of pharmacies without naloxone, fewer than 1 in 5 anticipated being able to provide it within 1 week (63 of 326; 19.3%).

Interpretation: Most community pharmacies in Canada did not have naloxone on hand and in those without naloxone available, fewer than 1 in 5 anticipated being able to provide it within 1 week. Our findings emphasize the need for increased availability of naloxone in pharmacies across Canada.

Alex M. Cressman, MD, MSc, Graham Mazereeuw, PhD, Qi Guan, BMSc, Wenting Jia, DSc, Tara Gomes, MHSc, PhD, David N. Juurlink, MD, PhD
CMAJ Open, November 8, 2017 vol. 5 no. 4
doi: 10.9778/cmajo.20170123