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B.C. doctors given Health Canada approval to prescribe heroin

posted Oct 3, 2013, 5:42 PM by Victor   [ updated Oct 13, 2013, 5:32 PM ]
Health Canada has given some doctors in B.C. special prescribing privileges for diacetylmorphine (heroin). The doctors will be using this special authorization in the Study to Assess Long-term Opioid Maintenance Effectiveness (SALOME), a clinical trial that will compare diacetylmorphine (heroin) to hydromorphone (Dilaudid®) in treating opioid addicts who have not benefited from other treatments such as methadone maintenance. Heroin-assisted treatment is already used in several European countries, including Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, and the UK and has been found to be an effective treatment for those patients who do not benefit from traditional opiate-replacement therapies (i.e. methadone and buprenorphine). It seems that the Conservative government is going to try to reverse the decision by Health Canada, though. This is not at all surprising considering their past efforts to shut down InSite, Canada's first and only supervised-injection site, despite all the research showing the numerous benefits of keeping it open.
B.C. doctors given Health Canada approval to prescribe heroin
September 20, 2013


After years of petitioning by health officials in British Columbia, Health Canada has authorized some B.C. doctors to prescribe heroin for select patients who have failed to respond to conventional opioid addiction treatments. But within moments of the authorization, Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose blasted the department’s decision, saying it flies in the face of the Conservative government’s anti-drug policy, and vowed to ensure it never happens again.

Health Canada on Friday authorized doctors to prescribe heroin to around 15 patients, The Globe and Mail has learned. The doctors had applied to Health Canada under its Special Access Programme (SAP), which grants doctors access to non-marketed or otherwise unapproved drugs for patients with “serious or life-threatening conditions when conventional therapies have failed, are unsuitable or unavailable,” according to a description on Health Canada’s website.

The doctors had recently renewed their calls for allowing prescription heroin in light of the ongoing SALOME trial, a three-year project launched by researchers from Providence Health Care and the University of British Columbia to determine whether hydromorphone – a powerful but legal opiate – is as effective as diacetylmorphine (prescription heroin) in helping severely addicted heroin users.

A previous study (NAOMI) by the same researchers, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, had concluded prescription heroin is a safe and effective treatment for the small subsection of addicts who did not benefit from conventional treatments such as methadone. Participants who took prescription heroin were more likely to stay in treatment, reduce illegal drug use and avoid illegal activities, researchers found.

Continue reading at The Globe and Mail...