PHC Heroin Trial - The pros and cons of prescribing to addicts

Doctors treating addicts from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside have been asking the federal government to extend a trial program under which they were allowed to write prescriptions for diacetylmorphine. Health Minister Rona Ambrose has opposed extending the program. On March 25, Providence Health Care took the doctors' case before the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Why is diacetylmorphine controversial? Because it's better known by the trade name it had before it was made illegal: Heroin.

Ambrose's actions are of a piece with the Conservative government's continuing opposition to harm reduction strategies in Canada. Last October, it amended the special access program (which makes restricted drugs available for research purposes) to prevent clinicians from prescribing heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy. After being ordered to extend the operating permits of Vancouver's Insite supervised injection facility by a unanimous Supreme Court of Canada decision (Canada v. PHS Community Services Society, 2011 SCC 44), the government wrote new legislation making it harder for similar facilities to be opened in the future. It has also increased the penalties for drug possession and trafficking.

Michael Flood Reports

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