BC lifts restrictions to opioid addiction treatment drug

published on July 19, 2016 by Karen Wang in The Ubyssey

Starting this month, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC lifted a regulation barrier that will improve access to Suboxone, a drug that is used to treat opioid addiction.

Opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin, fentanyl and morphine. While many opioids are often prescribed as powerful painkillers, they can also induce tolerance and dependence and lead to addiction. Over the past few years, while the number of prescriptions for opioids have been going up in BC, so have the rate of overdoses.

Currently, the two main treatments for opioid dependence in BC are methadone and Suboxone, a combination of two separate drugs: buprenorphine and naloxone. Until now, doctors looking to prescribe either of these drugs needed to complete a course to obtain a methadone license. However, recent reports detailing the improved safety and efficacy of Suboxone compared to methadone have called for the lifting of this restriction.

“We know from a lot of the literature that Suboxone is a much safer medication compared to methadone. It’s got a safety profile that boasts six times safer when compared to methadone,” said Seonaid Nolan, a clinical scientist at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and one of the co-authors of a report released in May calling for improved access to opioid addiction therapies. “There’s not really a lot of rationale as to why an individual would have to hold a methadone license to prescribe Suboxone.”

This regulation change will improve access for Suboxone, particularly in parts of BC where there are fewer physicians and addiction treatments available.

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