September 19, 2016 - 9:00 PM
'I CAN'T GIVE YOU THE ONE THING THAT WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE.'
KAMLOOPS - Cory Proctor has all of the supplies for a naloxone kit available in his Columbia Street Pharmacy but avoids selling them.
The Kamloops pharmacist calls the sale of naloxone kits a “two-tiered system” since not everyone who needs the overdose-reverser can access it for free.
“I can give you all of the products to go into the back alley and overdose, but I can’t give you the one thing that will save your life,” Proctor says.
A wall of the Columbia Street Pharmacy is dedicated to free harm-reduction supplies which pharmacists are able to give out to people, no questions asked. Proctor says the supplies includes glass pipes and syringes.
Instead of making people pay $40 to $50 for a naloxone kit, Proctor sits down with clients to assess if they’re a good match with institutions that provide the kits for free.
The provincial government pays for certain institutions to provide free naloxone kits, but most pharmacies and clinics have to pay for the supplies themselves.
He’ll direct them to places like the Kamloops Methadone Clinic or the Royal Inland Hospital emergency room to save them money.
If they’re not a match and willing to pay, Proctor will sell them a naloxone kit, but it’s something he tries to avoid. People who have been prescribed fentanyl or other opioids as a pain medication don’t receive naloxone kits for free.
“It should be an equal playing field for everybody,” Proctor says. “If an 89-year-old woman using a fentanyl patch for her terminal cancer wants naloxone, she shouldn’t have to pay for it.”
Proctor says it’s a big issue considering people who have never used drugs before are being prescribed high doses of opioids to manage their pain.
Kristina Gifford, owner of Kipp-Mallery Pharmacy in downtown Kamloops, says in a perfect world, everybody would have access to naloxone kits for free but it’s not a reality.
“If it’s for you personally, you can go to certain places to get it for free. If you’re getting it for a family member it will cost you,” Gifford says.
“It’d be great to just give it to them but that’s not a reality,” Gifford says.
Like Proctor, Gifford talks to clients who request naloxone kits and see if they qualify for a free kit from places like the methadone clinic.
Both pharmacists say they would abandon the rules in an immediate emergency, for example someone overdosing outside of their stores, but because the pharmacies have to buy the supplies they can’t hand them out for free.
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