A revolutionary new drug to treat opiate dependence will make life safer for addicts and pharmacies in North Wales during the coronavirus pandemic.
The slow-release drug, Buvidal, means people with problematic drug use will only have to go to the chemist once a week or once a month instead of the usual daily visits.
The scheme is being backed by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.
According to Mr Jones, its introduction is bringing huge benefits to NHS and pharmacy staff, as well as patients and he was grateful to the Welsh Government for funding it.
Mr Jones has commissioned the charity organisation, Kaleidoscope, to provide the service.
Buvidal, which contains the opioid buprenorphine, is the first new drug in a decade to tackle addiction to opiates, which include heroin and pharmaceuticals such as oxycodone and fentanyl.
Buprenorphine has been used for some time to treat opiate dependence. But it’s the new form of the drug, as a long-acting medication, that will make a big difference.
Mr Jones said: “During the current health crisis we are seeing those who need a regular supply of the heroin or morphine substitute methadone putting themselves and others at risk by having to attend pharmacies on a daily basis.
“It’s injected by a healthcare professional and slowly releases over a week or month.
“The Welsh Assembly Government has announced additional funding meaning Buvidal, which is significantly more expensive than Methadone, will be available to those who qualify.
He added: “This is a big step and the Welsh Government should be commended for this innovative initiative.
“In a period of when we are going through the Covid-19 pandemic and when our pharmacists are working extremely hard Buvidal is an extremely useful drug.”
Martin Blakeborough, the Chief Executive of Kaleidoscope, said: “By prescribing Buvidal to those who qualify we are relieving pressure on pharmacies and the NHS. And while we are going through the Coronavirus pandemic that has to be a good thing.
“It’s also helping keep many people dependent on an opiate substitute such as methadone safe.
“Many of these people have underlying health conditions so by reducing the number of visits they make to pharmacies has to be a step in the right direction.
“There are other issues too. Many methadone users are vulnerable in other ways too. Many have abusive partners or fall victim to those who would take their methadone from them.
“We have women who need methadone and who also have children to care for. It’s clearly going to be far better that they get a weekly or monthly injection of Buvidal rather than having to take children to a pharmacy on a daily basis.”
He added: “We are able to offer this service in North Wales thanks to the support of PCC Arfon Jones.
“He has been very supportive of the therapeutic work we do with drug users. And from the start of April he commissioned Kaleidoscope to support the treatment of North Wales drug users with Buvidal.
“It means North Wales is benefiting from a service that isn’t yet available in all of Wales yet. Kaleidoscope is working closely with the Area Planning Board for Substance Misuse and the NHS to deliver this vital service.”