Toronto – Paramedics represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) are raising concerns over the Ontario government’s decision to allow pharmacies to dispense the opioid‑reversing agent naloxone (Narcan®).
Naloxone is an injectable medication that can reverse the effects of an overdose of opioid drugs, including fentanyl, morphine, heroin, methadone or oxycodone. People at risk of an overdose or their concerned loved ones can now obtain naloxone without prescription and at no cost.
“But naloxone is not a solution in itself,” said Jamie Ramage, chair of OPSEU’S Ambulance Division. “It simply allows an individual who has overdosed to breathe more normally and perhaps regain consciousness. It gives the first person on the scene more time to seek emergency medical attention.
“People need to know that naloxone doesn’t and can’t replace the critical onsite care that paramedics provide,” Ramage warned. “It just buys precious moments of time, allowing paramedics to administer lifesaving treatment.”
Sudden cardiac arrest, anaphylactic shock (a life-threatening allergic reaction), and difficulty or absence of breathing because of a drug overdose are three medical emergencies where citizen involvement can make a big difference.
Ramage urged all citizens to learn CPR and to support public access defibrillators. He also encouraged everyone to become familiar with the medical conditions and history of those who are close to them. “We all have to be prepared to react in a crisis situation,” Ramage said. “Above all, make sure you or someone else calls 911 immediately so that paramedics can intervene as quickly as possible."
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas agreed with Ramage’s assessment. “Antidotes aren’t a replacement for urgent care. There’s just no substitute for a paramedic. Naloxone can only be an extraordinary response to an alarming rate of damage and death among those who abuse drugs – especially our young people.
“This is a social reality that takes a terrible toll on individuals, families and society. It’s a problem that concerns OPSEU greatly, and we’re committed to tackling it, together with our paramedic professionals.”
For more information: Jamie Ramage, 905-730-9351