Question to the Minister for Health (Dr. Leo Varadkar, TD)
To ask the Minister for Health the reason methadone is used as the sole opioid treatment; if consideration has been or will be given to using buprenorphine as an alternative treatment option; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer
For WRITTEN ANSWER on Thursday, 5 March 2015.
Methadone maintenance treatment is a critical stabilising treatment that enables the people involved to counter their drug problem use and to rebuild their lives. Government policy in relation to drugs, emphasises the need to provide opportunities for people to move on from illicit drug use to a drug-free life where that is achievable. However, different people in various circumstances may require different approaches to treatment and support.
According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, methadone is the most commonly prescribed substitution treatment for problem opiate use in Europe. In conjunction with other services and supports such as counselling, after-care and training, methadone maintenance treatment provides a pathway to recovery for the individual affected by problem substance use.
An Expert Group, set up by my Department in 2006, examined the regulatory framework required to facilitate the prescribing, dispensing and supply of buprenorphine/naloxone and buprenorphine-only products as alternatives to methadone. In 2011, this Group concluded that methadone is the drug of first choice in the treatment of opioid dependency, but that buprenorphine/naloxone may be more appropriate for particular cohorts of clients.
The HSE has established an Opioid Substitution Implementation Group to develop a plan for facilitating the wider availability of buprenorphine/naloxone and buprenorphine-only products as alternatives to methadone. The Group, which comprises representation from the HSE and my Department as well as medical professionals with a specific interest in addiction, will shortly be in a position to submit its final report to me.