Pubdate: Fri, 14 Jun 2002
Source: Eastern Daily Press (UK)
Copyright: 2002, Archant Regional
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (GW Pharmaceuticals)
Bookmark: (Methadone)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


A Norfolk doctor last night welcomed an experimental new treatment aimed at
helping heroin addicts administer the drug.

The Home Office is backing a research programme aimed at finding a more
effective way of treating Britain's 250,000 heroin users by testing new
drug-dispensing technology first developed to provide carefully measured
doses of cannabis-based medicines.

The Advanced Dispensing System (ADS) devised by GW Pharmaceuticals, the UK
company pioneering the use of cannabis in the treatment of conditions such
as multiple sclerosis, has been adapted for the use of methadone and heroin.

Individuals taking part in the trial will self-administer the drugs using
inhalers that dispense measured doses at specified time intervals.

Dr Willy Notcutt, at the James Paget Hospital, Gorleston, who led clinical
trials of cannabis-based medicinal sprays in May 2000, said it was a
significant step forward.

"It will be interesting to see whether it will be used as a way to
administer other drugs in the future and not just heroin. It is a device
that allows the patient to have the drug at a certain time so they know when
they will be receiving it and it might help them to be weaned off it," he

Methadone is currently the standard treatment for people dependent on opiate

But more than a third of methadone prescriptions are given in large daily

Dr Notcutt said he hoped that administering the drugs in a controlled and
safe way could also help reduce injecting behaviour.

The electronic ADS devices are set in advance and cannot be tampered with or
broken open.

Professor John Strang, director of the National Addiction Centre in London
where the trial is taking place, said: "There are overwhelming medical and
financial needs for the better treatment of people with opiate-dependence.

"We want to offer a realistic alternative to black market drugs and help a
greater number to achieve stability and recovery in their lives.

"At the same time, the security of the device will mean less need for
supervision, leading to cost savings and increased throughput.

"We are looking for a major increase in safety and effectiveness of
treatment alongside a dramatic increase in the number of patients being
treated -- without any increase in the cost per patient."

Dr Philip Robson, medical director of GW Pharmaceuticals, said: "If all goes
well, we will have these new delivery devices in addiction centres
nationwide within three years.

"Our security technology has the potential to revolutionise the prescription
and dispensing of controlled drugs. Government figures show that every pound
spent on the effective treatment of heroin addicts saves UKP 3 in
crime-related costs."
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