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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 380 & 390 - Substance misuse [43939/14 & 44033/14] [Methadone].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 380 & 390 - Substance misuse [43939/14 & 44033/14] [Methadone]. (18 Nov 2014)

External website: http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20a...


380. Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Health the supports and treatments that are available to support methadone users here; the initiatives under way to help citizens combat their methadone addiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43939/14] 

390. Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Health in view of the addictive properties of methadone which give rise to its own set of addiction problems, if the Health Service Executive is considering alternatives to methadone as a treatment for heroin addiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44033/14] 

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 380 and 390 together.

Government policy in relation to drugs emphasises the need to provide opportunities for people to move on from illicit drug use to a drug-free life, where that is achievable. However, different people in various circumstances may require different approaches to treatment and support. 

Methadone maintenance treatment is a critical stabilising treatment that enables the people involved to counter their problem drug use and to rebuild their lives. In conjunction with other services and supports such as counselling, after-care and training, methadone maintenance treatment provides a pathway to recovery for the individual affected by problem substance use. The National Drugs Rehabilitation Implementation Committee, which is chaired by the HSE, oversees the national implementation of an integrated inter-agency model of care in order to ensure that a person can access the range of services required to support their own recovery. 

An Expert Group was set up by my Department in 2006 to examine the regulatory framework which would be required to facilitate the prescribing, dispensing and supply of buprenorphine/naloxone and buprenorphine-only products as alternatives to methadone. The Group recommended that a feasibility study should be conducted in Ireland on the use of these products to assess: 

- if a regulatory regime, similar to that which applies under the Methadone Treatment Protocol would be necessary for these products, and 

- which cohorts of patients would be suitable for treatment with these products. 

The Feasibility Study commenced in June 2009 in a number of drug treatment clinics and community settings. An external consultant engaged to conduct an evaluation of the Study reported its findings to the Expert Group in 2011. The Expert Group recommended that regulations and guidelines similar to those which apply to the prescribing and dispensing of methadone, should also apply to the prescribing and dispensing of products containing buprenorphine/naloxone or buprenorphine-only for the treatment of opioid dependence. The Expert Group concluded that methadone is the drug of first choice in the treatment of opioid dependency, but that buprenorphine/naloxone may be more appropriate for particular cohorts of patients. 

The HSE has established an Opioid Substitution Implementation Group to develop a plan for facilitating the wider availability of buprenorphine/naloxone and buprenorphine-only products as alternatives to methadone. The Group comprises representations from the HSE and my Department, including medical professionals with specific interest in addiction. I understand that the HSE is currently in discussions with the supplier company in relation to the pricing structure relating to the product. The outcome of these discussions will inform the recommendations of the Group.

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