‘A major barrier’: Make drugs that prevent fentanyl deaths free, families and experts say

published on September 16, 2016 by Natalie Clancy in CBC

$12 a day to control cravings and $50 for overdose antidote kit too high, Richmond, B.C., mom says
ennifer Molto hates the sound of a ringing phone.

“Every morning, I wake up and I think, ‘Is today the day?'”

The Richmond, B.C., woman lives in constant fear the next call will be to tell her that her 23-year-old son is dead.

He’s addicted to fentanyl, a powerful opioid that has killed hundreds of Canadians in the past two years and triggered a public health crisis in B.C.

A drug called Suboxone has proven effective in suppressing fentanyl cravings, but Molto’s son can’t afford a prescription.

But Dr. Keith Ahamad, who treats addicts at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, says the lack of Suboxone and methadone coverage for those not on social assistance is a big problem for many of his patients.

“$400 a month for four or five months before the medication is covered … is a major barrier,” he said.

B.C. health officer Dr. Perry Kendall, who declared the public health emergency and co-chairs the provincial task force Clark appointed to try to reduce overdose deaths, says in his opinion, “obviously cost should not be a barrier to any kind of treatment.”

Only users get naloxone free
Molto and many others with loved ones who suffer from addiction carry naloxone, the potentially life-saving antidote to fentanyl, with them at all times.

Naloxone kits are now available without prescription, but each one costs $50 — if you can find a pharmacy that has them. Kits are only free for drug users.

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