Local health officials in London, Ont., are warning the ministry of health about door-to-door solicitors that hand out naloxone kits and collect health card numbers to bill the province.
Shaya Dhinsa of the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) said it’s possible the naloxone — an opioid antidote used to save people from fatal overdoses — is being distributed in this way by pharmacies.
“I have a few ideas where it may be coming from,” she said. “It may be a pharmacy.”
Dhinsa said she’s heard of three complaints from people who were offered naloxone by door-to-door solicitors.
“This is not really a normal practice,” she said. “We don’t have people solicit in this way.”
Provincial governments across Canada have stepped up distribution of the life-saving drug with the country in the grips of an increasingly deadly opioid crisis. Opioid-related overdoses killed 1,460 Canadians in the first half of last year alone.
One agency predicts overdoses from opioids like heroin and fentanyl could kill 4,000 Canadians in 2017 by the time the final numbers are tallied.
MLHU distributes naloxone kits for free and does not require a health card number or detailed client information.
Other community organizations, such as Regional HIV Connection and London InterCommunity Health Centre, also distribute naloxone in this way.
But the kits are also available at pharmacies. Clients provide a health card number, which the pharmacies use to bill the province. Pharmacies are required to provide some education to clients about the proper way to use the kits.
It’s unclear who is behind the door-to-door distribution, but it’s possible the unsolicited visits are more about pumping up sales than putting naloxone into the hands of those who might need it.
CBC London has contacted health ministry officials who were looking into the situation.
‘I don’t want it’
Mike Yaremchuk was immediately suspicious when there was a knock on his door last weekend from two men who seemed almost desperate to give him a naloxone kit, asking for his health card number in exchange.
The men came to his door at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday just as he was getting set to make dinner and watch the Super Bowl.
“They said ‘This is a free sample,'” Yaremchuk told CBC. “And I said ‘I don’t want it.'”
Yaremchuk lives in an 11-storey building on Kipps lane in north London.
He recalls there were two men, both in their 20s or 30s. One a heavy set Asian man, the other a white man of average build.
One carried a clipboard. Both had name tags that displayed no actual names, but instead had a generic-looking graphic of a medical cross.
The men claimed to be from a “government agency” but were evasive when pressed for specifics about their employer. Their pitch was simple: They would provide a free naloxone kit and would only need his OHIP number.
”It was a hard sell they were doing,” said Yaremchuk. “They were really adamant about how important it was for me to have one of these.”
After sending them away, Yaremchuk reached out to CBC London via Facebook.
“It has to be either an outright scam where you’re buying nothing and they’re billing OHIP for it, or a very dishonest business practice,” he said.
Police want to be notified
London Police Service spokesperson Sandasha Bough said anyone who gets a similar door-to-door pitch for free naloxone should called police immediately.
“If someone knocks on your door and they don’t appear genuine, they don’t appear to be who they’re saying they are, contact the police,” she said. “If we don’t know these things are happening, we’re not able to investigate them.”
She also warns against providing health card numbers or other personal information.
“Do not give out personal information to anybody,” she said.