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Government must not ignore vital role of methadone

The government's drive towards drug-free addiction recovery is admirable, writes Emma Weinbren. But it must not ignore the vital role that methadone plays and should give fair payment to the pharmacists that deliver it


Pharmacies are an obvious choice for providing these methadone services. The installation of consultation rooms means patients can take their methadone in privacy, as well as being in a community setting, and pharmacists' clinical skills enable them to monitor patients effectively.


But pharmacists must receive adequate remuneration if they are to continue this vital work. Cuts to funding are now leading contractors to question whether their substantial investment in methadone services is worth it. And, if methadone services are no longer seen as financially viable, the natural conclusion is that many will grind to a halt.


So, while the government should not abandon its aspirational strategy, it must also recognise the continuing role of methadone and supervised consumption. Otherwise it will not only be just contractors, but also local communities who lose out.


Emma Weinbren is senior reporter at C+D

On the face of it, a national fall in methadone consumption is good news. NHS spend on supervised consumption in pharmacies fell 10 per cent between 2009 and 2012, a C+D investigation revealed last week.


Together with a 10 per cent drop in methadone prescriptions and Public Health England's claims of falling numbers of heroin addicts, it appears an encouraging sign that addiction is becoming less prevalent.


But responses from drug charities and PSNC reveal a potentially worrying side to the trend. They fear the coalition government's focus on drug-free recovery has led to dwindling support for methadone treatment. And this stance appears to be reflected in funding – following the three-year period of C+D's investigation, the new pharmacy methadone payment system came in. This has led to an estimated £5,000-£6,000 fall in monthly income for some contractors providing supervised consumption services.


The focus on full recovery and rehabilitation is understandable. In an ideal world, everyone could make a speedy, drug-free recovery from addiction. But in reality, methadone remains a vital part of treatment for many patients, both stabilising lives and reducing crime.

In an ideal world, everyone could make a speedy, drug-free recovery from addiction. But in reality, methadone remains a vital part of treatment for many patients

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