Pubdate: Wed, 07 Dec 2016
Source: Telegram, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2016 The Telegram
Author: Tara Bradbury
Page: A4


Province to provide suboxone as a treatment for opioid addiction

Health Minister John Haggie's latest announcement received a round of
applause when he presented it at the Provincial Opioid Addiction Forum
Tuesday morning.

As part of an action plan to address opioid addiction in Newfoundland
and Labrador, the province will provide suboxone as an alternative to
methadone for people undergoing addictions treatment.

Calling opioid addiction a "public health crisis" in this province,
Haggie said suboxone is considered much safer than methadone. It's a
mixture of a synthetic opioid and the antidote naloxone that is
available in tablet form and is less likely to cause an overdose.
Suboxone can be given to a patient early, unlike methadone, which
requires a patient to wait until opioids are out of their system in
order to start taking it.

"What (suboxone) does is deal with the physical and psychological
aspects of dependency and addiction so you can wean people off
opioids," Haggie said. "It works very rapidly and is a lot safer than
methadone, which is the current drug of choice in that situation."

Methadone requires special authorization under the Newfoundland and
Labrador Prescription Drug Program, and only 14 doctors in the
province have a licence to prescribe it. Suboxone, which doesn't
require the authorization, will be easier for patients to obtain.

"Anyone with a licence to prescribe in this province can then
prescribe suboxone, so there are 1,200 physicians now, potentially,
rather than simply 14," Haggie said.

Last week, Haggie announced the distribution of 1,200 portable
naloxone kits across the province for people at risk of an opioid
overdose. It's part of the province's Opioid Action Plan, which also
includes the development of a safe-prescribing course for doctors, a
provincewide prescription monitoring program and new regulatory
standards from the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board.

As evident by the applause, Tuesday's announcement was a welcome one
among those working on the frontlines of opioid addiction.

"I'm delighted with this news," said Tree Walsh, co-ordinator of the
AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador's Safe Works Access
Program (SWAP). "So many people coming to SWAP have expressed fears
and reluctance to go to the methadone clinic, and wished suboxone was
an option."

Jane Henderson is programs director at Choices for Youth, an
organization that works with hundreds of at-risk youth every year.

"We're encouraged with what Minister Haggie said today, in particular
(the recognition) that this is a public health crisis, because we've
certainly seen that in the work that we do," Henderson said, adding
she hopes the initiative will lead to easier access to treatment and
shorter wait times. "It helps us move closer to viewing addiction from
a medical model versus a punitive one, and it brings us closer to
getting to a place where we can step away from stigma and punishment
and move towards treatment, which is good for everyone."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt