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In April 203 patients attended for opioid substitution treatment (OST) with buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone), according to information provided by the HSE.
A HSE spokesperson said addiction services in each Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) are prescribing the medication.
Suboxone, the brand name for buprenorphine/naloxone, is an alternative substitution treatment for opioid drug dependence.
New regulations were introduced in November 2017 to provide access to certain buprenorphine-based medicinal products in the OST system on the same statutory basis as methadone.
GPs contacted by the Medical Independent said the new system was working well. However, they did not predict a major shift of patients from methadone to Suboxone.
At the end of May, there were 281 level 1 doctors (who can treat stabilised, opiate-dependent patients) prescribing in the OST system, of which less than 10 prescribed buprenorphine/naloxone.
As of the same date, there were 86 level 2 doctors (who can initiate OST treatment) prescribing in the OST system, of which 21 prescribed buprenorphine/naloxone.
In April there were 10,464 patients attending for methadone treatment, according to the HSE.
The extension of access to buprenorphine/naloxone has been welcomed by the ICGP.
“Having it available nationally allows for increased patient choice and also facilitates its use as the medication of choice for certain addictions such as codeine and opiate analgesic medications,” said Director of the ICGP Substance Misuse Programme Dr Ide Delargy.
“[The] ICGP is very supportive of this initiative and acknowledges the role that GPs have in the roll-out of this successful programme.”
At the end of 2017, there were 110 patients in receipt of Suboxone, 144 by mid-2018 and over 200 by April this year.