Providence Health Care and Pivot Legal Society welcome Health Canada’s amendments to allow access to medical heroin

Providence Health Care, which operates the Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver Canada, and Pivot Legal Society, said this week’s announcement by Health Canada that once again allows doctors to prescribe diacetylmorphine – or pharmaceutical-grade heroin – under Health Canada’s Special Access Program is an important step forward in the treatment of chronic opioid dependence.

Allowing access to diacetylmorphine, or medical heroin, to patients who need it, ensures that life-saving treatments get delivered to vulnerable people suffering from chronic opioid use.

When the last federal government changed regulations to prevent access to pharmaceutical-grade heroin, Providence Health Care and Pivot Legal Society had initiated a Charter challenge in the Supreme Court of BC. Pending the determination of that case, PHC was granted an injunction to allow continued access to SAP to treat patients at Providence’s Crosstown Clinic.

The latest change by Health Canada means we no longer need to resort to the courts to continue to utilize the Special Access Program for delivering life-saving treatments to the most vulnerable people suffering from severe opioid dependence.

We applaud the leadership of the federal government for putting the urgent needs of vulnerable patients first.

The proposed change would let the SAP consider requests for access to drugs for patients with serious or life-threatening conditions when conventional treatments have failed.

These patients have tried other treatments, such as methadone and detox, numerous times, but such treatments have not been effective.

Diacetylmorphine (heroin) assisted treatment is a proven treatment option that is a last resort for people who have tried all other treatment options without success.

The science supports this course of treatment. Six similar trials comparing medically-prescribed heroin and methadone (including NAOMI), involving more than 1,500 patients, have provided unanimous evidence in support of the effectiveness of this treatment.

When it comes to treating addictions, especially in the midst of a national overdose crisis, our doctors must have every tool at their disposal. Every patient is unique and heroin-assisted treatment isn’t for everyone. But for those it does work for, their doctors should have the right to prescribe. Anything less would be inhumane.

Providence Health Care (PHC) is one of Canada's largest faith-based health care organizations, operating 16 health care facilities in Greater Vancouver. PHC operates one of two adult academic health science centres in the province – St. Paul’s Hospital – performs cutting-edge research in more than 30 clinical specialties, and focuses its services on six “populations of emphasis”: cardio-pulmonary risks and illnesses, HIV/AIDS, mental health, renal risks and illness, specialized needs in aging and urban health and is home to the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

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For more information please contact:


Providence Health Care:

Ann Gibbon
Senior Communications Specialist, Media Relations
604.682.2344 ext. 66987| M: 604.837.6003


Pivot Legal Society
Douglas King