Canada's first batch of prescription heroin expected in Vancouver by December

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Despite delays, a group of Vancouver addicts is on track to become the first recipients of prescription heroin in Canada before the end of the year.

Adrienne Smith, a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society, told the Straight that regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles have been “complex” and a “slow process”, but that Providence Health Care is confident it has secured all permissions required.

“They expect to be in a position to order the medication any day now,” Smith said in a telephone interview. “And then it takes 55 days to ship, so it’s expected to arrive at the end of the year.”

Prescription heroin or diacetylmorphine will be available at Crosstown Clinic in the Downtown Eastside. In accordance with the terms of an interlocutory injunction, only former participants of an academic study called SALOME will be eligible to receive the drug as a treatment for severe opiate addictions. There are 202 such individuals.

That injunction was granted by the B.C. Supreme Court on May 29, 2014. According to a 34-page decision, Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson found that risks faced by the opiate addicts acting as plaintiffs in the case would be reduced if doctors were allowed to administer prescription heroin.

The judgement notes that to be eligible, patients must have a record of failing to respond to other available treatments for opiate addiction (such as methadone), and that they must be represented by a physician who has filed a Special Access Program application with Health Canada.

Smith expressed concern for patients that have exited the SALOME trial and therefore remain cut off from their supply of prescription heroin until Crosstown Clinic doctors are able to secure and begin administering the drug.

“It’s a slow process, particularly for people who left the study and who are in need of urgent treatment,” she said. “And it’s not a solution for people who did not participate in the study.”

The case first entered the courts on March 25, 2014, when Providence Health Care and five SALOME participants identified as long-time opiate users appeared in the B.C. Supreme Court in an effort to secure diacetylmorphine as a legal means of managing addiction. That action was taken in response to Health Minister Rona Ambrose amending regulations to close what she described as a “loophole” that previously allowed clinicians to prescribe drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy (MDMA).

Smith said the next step is to take the legal precedent that permits the administration of heroin for former SALOME participants and hopefully see it applied to allow for doctors to prescribe heroin to all severe users for whom it is deemed an appropriate means of reducing the harm caused by their addictions.

“It will go to a hearing in about a year, which is bad news for folks who would benefit from this treatment in the meantime,” she said. “But we’re told that if we’re successful at trial, prescription diacetylmorphine will be available to every patient who needs it.”

Comments (8) Add New Comment
S H
Did the lawyer refer to heroin as "medicine?"

Um, ... Okay, with pot becoming legal, I really hope kids learn the difference between the drugs they'll encounter in their lives.

Pot is not so bad, the rest are just poison. The drug war in the US has done a lot of harm to confuse people.

Jesus H. Christ people.
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Good one
This will be a big help.
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Lonny
It's about time.
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Anti-Junkie
The judgement notes that to be eligible, patients must have a record of failing to respond to other available treatments for opiate addiction (such as methadone), and that they must be represented by a physician who has filed a Special Access Program application with Health Canada.

Seriously? A fucking bullet seems better then this enabling bullshit. Put the cunts in prison, solitary and cold turkey them
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blah
Let's see, we want you to stop doing heroin by doing more heroin. What could possible go wrong with such a stupid idea. Looks like we've just given up on helping people get sober and are instead helping them stay addicted. With groups like Vancouver Coastal Health advocating legalization of ALL drugs no wonder things just keep getting worse. Does anybody dare say things have gotten better in the last ten years?????? I didn't think so!!!!
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cranky mom
What is the big deal? Less harmful than methadone. Less addictive than methadone, crack and crystal meth. It really is just an analgesic. There are some addicts who are just not going to recover and I think this is the best form of harm reduction. IMO.

I have seen plenty of harm done to families by violence due to alcohol. Addiction comes in many forms, this one is just not socially acceptable.

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GG
So now big Pharma is in direct competition with the drug warlords. Big Pharma is finally outed
as to what they are.
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April
I think everyone commenting who seems upset are missing the overall goal/point of this program-prescription heroin is better than the alternative of the very dirty very disgusting dope that is out there, and it is safer to get it at this location than somewhere dangerous on the streets.
Those that do not understand addiction should really not jump to conclusions because of this ground breaking decision and only try to understand that sobriety is not an option at the moment for many users. Forcing them to get into treatment is not the answer because their mind will not be 100% involved in it, and they will go back to using after completion.
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