In April, the <strong><em>Medical Independent</em></strong> (<strong><em>MI</em></strong>) reported that the Executive was in “advanced stages” of negotiations with Indivior and that once completed it would allow for the much wider distribution of suboxone across the country.
According to the HSE, these negotiations have now been completed. However, the Executive did not provide greater detail as to the nature of the agreement.
“The legislation has been updated and the HSE has reached agreement with the company to allow for increased provision nationally,” a HSE spokesperson told <strong><em>MI</em></strong>.
There were 145 people receiving suboxone within the public health system at the end of June, according to figures provided to this newspaper. This was an increase on the 109 people who were in receipt of suboxone at the end of December last year.
Suboxone is an alternative substitution treatment for opioid drug dependence. The HSE informed <strong><em>MI</em></strong> that the treatment is currently available in 20 clinics nationwide, which is up from 15 in April. It is also available from seven level-two opioid substitution treatment (OST) GPs and in two prisons.
The majority of suboxone patients are receiving treatment in Dublin in over a dozen different clinics.
In 2015, the Opioid Substitution Implementation Group recommended a phased increase in access to buprenorphine (suboxone) products, subject to legislation being introduced and funding being made available.
In October, Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Ms Catherine Byrne, told the Dáil that “an additional €750,000 has been allocated to the HSE to facilitate the phased increase in the use of suboxone”.