WINNIPEG — A shortage of the life-saving opioid reversal agent naloxone is impacting local community organizations.
Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY) says a supply issue is preventing many of its participants from acquiring naloxone kits.
Typically, naloxone is available through pharmacies, medical practitioners by prescription, and community organizations that take part in Manitoba’s take-home-naloxone program.
Last year, approximately 418 people died in Manitoba due to drug-related overdoses. In 2019, there were 199 such reported deaths. Statistics for 2023 aren’t yet available, but community groups say they are seeing an upward trend in the number of people succumbing to overdoses.
“While we don’t have exact numbers, we know these kits are saving lives because participants are telling us on at least a weekly basis that they have used the kits on another community member, or sometimes even themselves,” said Breda Vosters, director of grants and information at RaY.
“If we assume even just 10% of the kits we hand out are being used, it means upwards of 25 overdose deaths are being prevented each month just with the kits we hand out at RaY, let alone the rest of our community partners. Without a steady flow of these kits, overdose numbers would be exponentially higher than they are.”
RaY distributes an average of 250 naloxone kits per month, but has only 60 remaining for the second half of May. There is no word on when they may receive more.
Other organizations, including Main Street Project and Sunshine House, are facing similar supply issues.
All three organizations are calling on the Stefanson government to be more proactive in ensuring there is a steady flow of naloxone to be distributed throughout the province.
On its website, the government acknowledged the supply shortage and said it’s expected to be resolved by mid-May. When back-ordered kits arrive, established public serving sites will be prioritized in receiving them.