Fentanyl chemicals to be restricted: Health Canada

Plan will address Canada's national opioid crisis, says Health Minister

Fentanyl pills are shown in a handout photo. Police say organized crime groups have been sending a potentially deadly drug through British Columbia to Alberta and Saskatchewan using hidden compartments in vehicles. (Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams/CP)

(Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams/CP)

VANCOUVER — Health Canada plans to restrict six chemicals used to make fentanyl as part of Ottawa’s attempt to address what it calls the national opioid crisis.

Health Minister Jane Philpott says a bill brought in by Sen. Vern White means the federal government can act quickly to make the unauthorized importation and exportation of the chemicals illegal.

In a news release, Health Canada says its regulatory proposal expeditiously achieves the intent of White’s bill.

Philpott says she is also planning a summit to take place this fall to address the opioid crisis.

In British Columbia, a joint task force examining the drug overdose crisis used International Overdose Awareness Day to highlight steps the province is taking on opioid overdoses.

Leaders of the task force, the provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, and the director of police services, Clayton Pecknold, say long-term and first-time users are affected equally, and no one who tries illicit drugs is safe.

Kendall and Pecknold say certain steps can reduce the chance of an overdose, and they are using the international awareness day as a platform to launch the first phase of B.C.’s fight against drug deaths.

They point to a new testing service to help users determine if their drugs contain potentially deadly contaminants such as fentanyl.

In a tweet early Wednesday, Vancouver Coastal Health said Insite is offering the new program and that 86 per cent of drugs checked so far contain the powerful opioid.

Aug. 31 is set aside around the world to recognize the epidemic of overdose deaths.

After a public health crisis was declared in B.C. in April, a provincial joint task force was formed to address the rising numbers of overdose deaths.

A recent coroner’s service report revealed 433 apparent illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. between Jan. 1 and July 31, with more than 62 per cent linked to fentanyl-laced drugs.

“We are working hard to put a stop to the deadly increase of overdoses and we know we have much more work to do,” say the news release from Kendall and Pecknold.

They are urging drug users, their families and friends to visit an overdose awareness website, saying it is the first step in B.C.’s campaign to end such tragic deaths.

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