Pubdate: Tue, 28 Nov 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: Keith Gerin
Page: A4


Latest statistics suggest Alberta will see nearly 550 fentanyl-tied
deaths this year

Fentanyl-related overdoses killed 400 Albertans in the first nine
months of the year, according to new statistics on the opioid crisis
that also revealed a disturbing rise in the emergence of highly toxic

The numbers, released Monday in Alberta Health's latest quarterly
report, show the province has avoided any major spikes in fentanyl
fatalities this year, but has also failed to stop the death toll from

At the current pace, Alberta is set to record close to 550
fentanyl-related deaths by the end of the year.

"The numbers point to the severity of the crisis and shows us there is
more work to be done to help make sure we are able to save more
lives," associate health minister Brandy Payne told reporters Monday
at the legislature.

The new statistics show 143 fentanyl deaths occurred in the
Juneto-September period this year, including 68 from the Calgary zone
and 39 from the Edmonton region.

That makes it the deadliest quarter to date, up from the 131 deaths
recorded in 2017's second quarter and the 126 deaths in the year's
first three months. It's also well above the June-to-September period
in 2016, when Alberta had 87 fatal fentanyl overdoses.

Carfentanil, an opioid that is up to 100 times more toxic than
fentanyl, has been detected in nearly a quarter of the
fentanyl-related overdoses this year - including 44 cases in the
third-quarter alone.

In 2016, carfentanil was detected in just 29 cases the entire

Payne said she believes her government's actions to confront the
crisis have helped slow the growth of deaths this year. She
specifically noted efforts to distribute more take-home naloxone kits,
increase treatment spaces and expand access to opioid replacement
drugssuboxone and methadone.

The new report shows a 358 per cent increase through the first nine
months of the year in the rate of Albertans who were dispensed
suboxone from community pharmacies. As for methadone, the rate
increased 53 per cent.

Payne said the province is now working to train more primary care
clinics to deliver the treatment.

She also mentioned efforts to get doctors to rein in their opioid
prescribing and the approvals of six supervised drug consumption sites
in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge touted to save lives.

She said the government will have more announcements on additional
measures in the coming weeks.

Liberal MLA David Swann blasted the government for an overly
"reactive" and "piecemeal" approach to the problem, calling for the
province to appoint a chief addictions and mental health officer and
to call a state of emergency.

"I hope they become more aggressive, because we do have to become more
aggressive," added UCP health critic Tany Yao, though he provided no
details on what those efforts should be.
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