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Drop-In Center: A Reason to Celebrate

Prescription of a drug for substitution therapy

Prescription for a substitution therapy drug

Drop-In Center, the Ukrainian organization uniting people living with drug addictions, has cause for celebration. The Ministry of Health of Ukraine set in motion a system that allows participants of substitution therapy programs to receive their medication in drugstores with a prescription. This move could make life significantly easier and save time for many replacement therapy patients.

The current system forces drug users to go to the therapy site daily to receive medications; they must consume the drug in front of medical staff. In a big city like Kyiv, commuting to the site can take up to two hours each way. Drop-In Center activists have often discussed this issue, repeatedly insisting that for many patients the system poses an obstacle to obtaining a full-time job. The system also doesn't allow patients to leave town, as it is almost impossible to get the therapy in another city. In addition, it limits where a drug user can receive medical assistance. If a drug user is hospitalized he or she still needs to consume substitution therapy medications, but there is only one hospital in Kyiv that is authorized to provide them.

According to the new Ministry of Health regulations, Buprenorphine, a medication used for substitution therapy, is part of the list of drugs that can be obtained with a prescription. Drop-In Center activists believe that methadone, the other widespread substitution therapy medication, should also be included in this list though.

There were a few posts about this news on Web pages administrated by the Drop-In Center. For example, the harm reduction Web site “Motylek” published a statement from the Association of Substitution Therapy Participants:

As of the end of May 2009, there were 3800 participants of substitution therapy programs in Ukraine. Out of them, 850 people use Buprenorphine and 2950 people use methadone…

We welcome the new regulations of the Ministry of Health… We hope that the provision of Buprenorphine via drugstores will make it possible to break the “serfdom” of therapy participants and help reduce the workload for doctors and nurses on the sites…

We are planning to continue our advocacy to encourage the distribution of replacement therapy medications via prescription for all Ukraine sites and are ready to help all people interested in this issue.

The news also initiated a discussion. For instance, Olga Beliayeva wrote:

Guys, I realized how tiring it was to go to the site everyday to receive the medications after I got my first prescription. Now I can receive prescribed medications for weekends and when I need to travel. The bad news is that I had to reduce my daily dose of medication to satisfy the conditions of the new regulations….

It is our life and we need to have the option to receive methadone and Buprenorphine via a pharmacy…We need to have an opportunity to plan our time without regards to the work hours of the replacement therapy site…

Mazay wrote:

So now we can get Buprenorphine in a drugstore. It is great. But what about another medication that belongs to the same opiate group? What about methadone? This situation is strange. For some reason, it is not on the list of the new regulations…. Perhaps we should lobby for its inclusion in the list more actively…

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