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Nearly 750 patients now receiving Suboxone

By David Lynch - 28th May 2023


The number of patients being administered buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) reached 748 at the end of April, according to figures provided to this newspaper. This is a continuation of an upward trend that has been evident since 2017.

At the end of May 2022, there were 656 patients in receipt of Suboxone, according to figures previously reported by the Medical Independent (MI)

A HSE spokesperson told MI the figures were based on data supplied from the central treatment list and exclusive of prisons.

Regulations were introduced in November 2017 to provide access to certain buprenorphine-based medicinal products in the opioid substitution treatment (OST) system on the same statutory basis as methadone.

According to further figures supplied by the Executive, at the end of April there were 18 level 1 GPs and 42 level 2 GPs actively prescribing Suboxone. This was a slight increase from May last year when there were 15 level 1 GPs and 41 level 2 GPs prescribing Suboxone.

A level 1 GP prescriber can treat stabilised opiate-dependent patients in their own practice, while a level 2 GP can provide comprehensive assessment, initiation of treatment where appropriate, stabilisation maintenance of treatment, and/or detox of opioid-dependent patients. 

In April, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Wellbeing, and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton, told the Dáil that Suboxone was an important part of the national drugs strategy, Reducing Harm Supporting Recovery.

She said a particular emphasis had been placed on the provision of buprenorphine/naloxone as a medication to be used in OST. “This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of people receiving this medication and an increase in GPs prescribing the medication.”

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