Pubdate: Sat, 27 May 2017
Source: Prince George Citizen (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Prince George Citizen
Author: Camille Bains
Page: 5


VANCOUVER - Addiction experts from five European countries say their
experience with prescription heroin programs have provided
overwhelming evidence to suggest Canada should expand its one clinic
in the midst of a deadly opioid crisis.

Researchers from the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, the
United Kingdom and Canada held a symposium in Vancouver on Friday to
share lessons they've learned from multiple clinical trials and years
of treatment.

Wim van den Brink of the Netherlands told a news conference that some
European programs started as a way to deal with the public nuisance of
drug use but the medical health benefits improved people's quality of
life and saved money in the criminal justice system.

"There's so much experience locally and internationally, the efficacy
is so clear," said van den Brink, a professor of psychiatry and
addiction at the University of Amsterdam's Academic Medical Centre.
"I'm not sitting here with some kind of moral superiority that we did
it so wonderful. Politically, it wasn't primarily motivated by
public-health issues."

Seventeen clinics provide supervised injectable and inhalable heroin
for about 800 chronically addicted patients in the Netherlands, he

The impetus for the gathering, organized by the Public School of
Health at the University of British Columbia, was an estimated 2,000
overdose deaths across the country just since 2016, many involving the
painkiller fentanyl.

Vancouver's Swiss-based Crosstown clinic is the only facility in North
America that provides heroin treatment for people who have committed
to two or three supervised injections daily after failing at multiple
other interventions.

"Even from a medical perspective, this is a cheap treatment if you can
save so many lives," van den Brink said. "The only thing is, do we
think the lives of addicts are worth the same thing as people with any
other disease?"

Senior research fellow Nicola Metrebian, of the National Addiction
Centre at King's College London, said the United Kingdom government
funded four clinics providing injectable opioid treatment in 2012
based on evidence from a major clinical trial there and from
international research but the facilities were forced to close because
of a lack of funding.

Eugenia Oviedo-Joekes, an associate professor at the University of
British Columbia's School of Public Health, presented two major
Canadian studies that led to the opening of the Crosstown clinic. The
program that currently provides heroin-assisted treatment to 95
patients has a wait list of up to 600 people and needs to be urgently
expanded, she said.
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