Monday, March 19, 2007

CHINA'S HOPES FOR BUPRENORPHINE:

An article in Xinhua English Service News (Mar 15) was headlined: "China to use new medicine for drug addicts. ", and stated "China's Ministry of Health will use a new type of medicine [Suboxone] to replace methadone in the treatment of some drug addicts . . . " This would be unfortunate in the extreme. Nowhere in the world where Suboxone has been introduced was the purpose to "replace" methadone; rather it has been to supplement it and offer an additional option for providers and recipients of care.

The fact is that both medications are effective and safe, though there are no cure-alls and individual patients will do better on one or another - or with a different treatment modality altogether. Both medications produce dependence (which is not necessarily a pejorative observation - consider the diabetic's "dependence" on insulin), both can be misused, and neither produces allergic reactions. There is, however, one very major distinction, and that is cost. In most parts of the world (including the United States), the average daily dose of Suboxone is some 25 times (!) more expensive than that of methadone - not an insigificant difference when one is talking about almost half a million (registered!) drug addicts!

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