Pharmacists fear cuts to methadone dispensing fees

New Brunswick pharmacists who dispense methadone say provincial funding cuts could mean fewer addicts get the help they need.

New Brunswick pharmacists who dispense methadone say provincial funding cuts could mean fewer addicts get the help they need.

Nick Trudel says he relies on his daily dose of methadone to stay away from a life of drugs. ((CBC))
Sean Luck, who is one of only two dozen pharmacists who dispense methadone in the province, said he's worried by talk of deep cuts coming to dispensing fees for the drug.

"The impact could be huge, because I think it could prohibit pharmacists from getting involved in dispensing methadone, and that's the last thing that we want to do," Luck said.

Pharmacists are not required to dispense methadone, which helps addicts overcome dependency on drugs like heroin and oxycontin.

And many pharmacists choose not to hand out the drug for several reasons.

Not only is the preparation itself complicated, but it's time consuming with pharmacists finding themselves in the role of a liason between patients, doctors and social workers.

Nick Trudel is one of those who depends on methandone. He checks in to his neighbourhood pharmacy in Saint John every day, like clockwork.

Trudel said the daily, on-site dose of methadone stands between him and a life of addiction.

"It saved my life. I don't do drugs at all anymore, you know I've got a job, I got my own place, I've got a girlfriend ... I got all the things that I never had when I was doing drugs, so it works wonders," Trudel said.

Meeting planned

Pharmacists will be meeting with the provincial government about its plans next week. 

The provincial government has asked every department to trim their budgets, including the Department of Health.

And its not just pharmacists who worry about the possible reduction in access to methadone.

Violent crimes like armed robberies have dropped 50 per cent, since methadone treatment came to Saint John.

Saint John Police Chief Bill Reid said it is no coincidence that there has been a drop in violent crime since the city has had access to methadone treatment. ((CBC))
Saint John Police Chief Bill Reid, who has advocated for expanded access to methadone, said the drop in crime is no a coincidence.

"At the end of the day, if it wasn't supported by methadone program, our levels of reduction, just would not be realized," Reid said.

Right now, a handful of pharmacies in Saint John dispense methadone but access is much thinner in rural areas.

Pharmacists say cutting money to the program is the wrong way to go and will cost the province more in crime and other social costs in the long run.