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Contractors reject media accusation of 'cashing in' on addicts

Methadone users could be deterred from using addiction services following claims by two Scottish newspapers that pharmacists are "raking in millions" from treatment, Community Pharmacy Scotland has warned


Fresh claims by national newspapers that pharmacists are "cashing in" on methadone addicts could deter patients from using the service, Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) has warned.

The Daily Record and the Scottish Express accused Scottish pharmacists of "raking in millions" from "controversial" methadone treatments that fail to wean patients off the drug. The Scottish government had earmarked £19 million to pay pharmacists who delivered the service in 2012, the newspapers claimed on Monday (May 19). £18.5m was paid to pharmacists in methadone fees between April 2012 and March 2013, according to figures from ISD Scotland.

CPS policy and development pharmacist Mark Feeney said the press coverage would stigmatise patients and contribute to the falling number of addicts entering treatment for addiction.

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"The way they've portrayed pharmacists is totally unfair but the real victims are patients, who have been discouraged from accessing treatment," Mr Feeney told C+D. "Opiate replacement therapy was reviewed [by the government] last year, partly in response to media pressure. I don't think it needs to be revisited," he added.

In 2012, pharmacy leaders hit back at claims by Labour MSP Jenny Marra that some pharmacists were "methadone millionaires" profiting from recovering addicts at taxpayers' expense.

Neeraj Salwan, owner of Reach Pharmacy Group, said there was a stigma attached to the service because it was an "easy target" for the media.

"There are real problems that lead to addiction. You have to deal with those issues before you say pharmacies are cashing in," he told C+D.

Contractor Fiona McElrea, of Whithorn Pharmacy in Wigtownshire, said the effectiveness of methadone services should be looked at, rather than how much pharmacies were reimbursed for delivering it.

"The methadone scheme is really a maintenance programme now. It was originally designed for patients to reduce their dose and eventually come off [the drug], but that doesn't happen any more," she told C+D

"We're certainly not cashing in. It's time-consuming to make up, dispense and supervise methadone. It takes you away from other roles in the pharmacy," she added.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society director for Scotland Alex MacKinnon said it was "completely unacceptable" for the media to attack pharmacists for delivering an NHS service to "the most vulnerable patients".

"Community pharmacists would welcome an increased role in detoxification of patients but this requires a multidisciplinary approach supported by health and social care colleagues as well as partners in the third sector," he said.

Have you noticed a drop in the number of addicts using methadone services?
We want to hear your views, but please express them in the spirit of a constructive, professional debate. For more information about what this means, please click here to see our community principles and information

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

Great to see the RPS doing a great PR job for us as usual. I wonder why their subscription numbers are down?

N C, Community pharmacist

I think if you can make millions off methadone dispensing, then fair play to you. I personally wouldn't fancy the workload that entails! A massively disproportionate amount of my time is spent on methadone and I only make about 500GBP off it per month!

Leon The Apothecary, Student

"The methadone scheme is really a maintenance programme now. It was originally designed for patients to reduce their dose and eventually come off [the drug], but that doesn't happen any more,"

I have to say I agree with that statement. It is becoming rarer and rarer that I have seen a patient on a reducing regime. More along the lines of patients who have been taking Opioid Replacement Therapy for years and have no intention of ever considering coming off it completely.

You could argue however that by enforcing such methods the patient runs the risk of relapsing substance misuse, and perhaps this highlights an improvement that could be made in the substance misuse service as a whole?

Calum Nelson, Locum pharmacist

Don't tell the papers anyone, but we're also cashing in on people addicted to nicotine, people addicted to alcohol, people with poor diet, people who get hurt playing sport, people with genetic conditions, people with mental illness, the elderly, people with learning disabilities, visually and hearing impaired people, immigrants, visiting emigrants, children, pregnant women and many other types of people, some of whom may even be your friends and family.

And the best thing about this whole "pharmacy" scam we have going? We'll never go out of business because people keep getting ill! Ahahahahahahahaha!

Mustafa Bhaiji, Superintendent Pharmacist

Perhaps the media should be given a statement that clearly refutes these allegations with facts and figures. In addition, they should publish the harm reduction strategies adopted by Drug and Alcohol Teams around the country, and the role of methadone in it.

Coming from a rag that is full of Princess Diana conspiracy theories and utter garbage about the McCann disappearance, i wouldnt be unduly worried.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

That top tabloid journalism..........trailer trash of a profession lol

David McNaughton, Community pharmacist

NOT the best day for me to read this .....had to deal with one "high" client who was abusive .. His "client" partner who was challenging.. The hand in of 4 suboxone 8mg that had been found on the street by a passing mum! Included in the skillet was a partially sooked tablet ( from another pharmacy I should add ) .. BUT we sorted it all out and the best bit was walking along to the other pharmacy and having a chat ... to pass on the returned tablets .. its just great to be able to share this with a fellow pharmacist traveler on the route of life.

Michael Stewart, Community pharmacist

Does anyone know how much GPs get paid to write prescriptions for drug misuse patients?

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Yes £70-£80 per hour...for GPs...I get about £20 for the same...Rx writing too.

Gordon McIllroy, Pharmaceutical Adviser

This is a most spurious article written by the unknowing to be read by the ill informed. Or put simply mischief making. I'm sure that neither of these newspapers accepts advertisements for free, its a service for which their business would expect to get paid. As part of a pharmacy business model we offer or professional service for a fee which is dictated by government. Issuing methadone on behalf of the NHS is one among many services we offer and expect to get paid. Unlike a newspaper we don't set our service revenue rates they are dictated to us. So it can not even be argued that we are charging to much, we are charging what is allowed.

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Let's see which other service provider would be willing to provide methadone at the cost that we do. Why are we as pharmacists getting the stick when it is the clinics that are prescribing it?! We merely supply it safely to the patient.

What a load of cobblers!

geoffrey gardener, Community pharmacist

Take offence at the tone of the article, we as pharmacists are offered a fee for providing a service, providing the service is delivered as required there can be no accusation of cashing in. Claiming that the scheme is controversial, and fails to wean addicts of drugs would probably have made a better headline. Putting my taxpayers hat on I would need a lot of persuading that the 19 million is money well spent, and people being denied expensive cancer drugs etc.,may well have some questions to ask

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

What a load of could also that pharmacists are exploiting the sick by offering a dispensing service too.


Comes down to supply demand.

I can guarantee if you supply someone with a 9-6pm NHS contract, they will provide a methadone service at a fraction of the current cost. It is called business.
As a tax payer - brilliant


Calum Nelson, Locum pharmacist

Mesut, "Vote UKIP" is a bit rich coming from someone named after a migrant worker...

P M, Community pharmacist

your right, i would supply for free, but i would have to make cuts somewhere else... i know locum wages £6.50 / hr....... any takers ?


Bit of a drama queen - you forgot to mention

establishment payment
practice allowance
mur fees
OTC sales
extended services
dispensing fee
minor aliments

Farm Assistant, Community pharmacist

For once Gerry I agree with you. At least we are offering a service unlike the MPs who steal money from the taxpayer to pay for duck houses, second homes their parents live in etc etc etc etc etc etc...............................................................

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