Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Urgent Need for Injectable Addiction Treatment in B.C.: Addictions Minister

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Urgent Need for Injectable Addiction Treatment in B.C.: Addictions Minister

Article excerpt

Urgent need for injectable treatment in B.C.

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VANCOUVER - British Columbia's addictions minister has tasked health authorities to move quickly to scale up use of an injectable drug that could save the lives of chronic substance users who haven't responded to treatment with oral medication.

Judy Darcy said hydromorphone is urgently needed for people struggling with addictions and B.C. would be the first place in North America to use it as part of clinical practice.

"If we're going to save lives and prevent people from being poisoned from toxic drugs on the street we need to provide alternatives and this is an alternative that has been proven by evidence to work," she said Wednesday.

Darcy was responding after the B.C. Centre on Substance Use released a report providing doctors with guidelines on hydromorphone, which is used at the Crosstown clinic in Vancouver, where some patients addicted to heroin receive injections of pharmaceutical heroin under supervision.

Suboxone and methadone are the first- and second-line medications to treat substance use disorder but Darcy said hydromorphone would be another option for people who've failed with those treatments.

"We're asking health authorities to give us plans about how to implement this," she said. "We'll be waiting to hear back from them on an urgent basis about what that looks like."

The results of a groundbreaking trial in 2016 involving Crosstown patients showed hydromorphone, or pharmaceutical heroin, is equally effective at treating heroin addicts who don't respond to methadone or suboxone.

Cheyenne Johnson, a nurse and clinical director at the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, said the Crosstown study of 202 participants suggests hydromorphone must be made available to more people through clinics and pharmacies, the same as for methadone.

"This being a new and emerging model in B.C., what we want to do is work with the health system and evaluate and monitor the expansion of this program to see what works and where the gaps are and address those," she said. …

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