Thursday, 8 March 2012
The Daily Record may be turning over a new leaf .
For years the newspaper has been a boring cheerleader for the Scottish Labour party - still is sometimes - but the are encouraging signs that things are changing.
Just the other day the Daily Record ran an interesting article on the cost of Scotland's methadone habit - which raised some serious issues.
Here's an extract of what the paper had to say - but the key point is that the methadone programme is supposed to be weaning people off drugs for good - not replacing one habit with another.
Apparently you can get methadone in prison as well - which may be a good idea in certain circumstances - but I wonder if that's still the case for the repeat offenders who make up much of the prison population.
In any event it can only be a good thing if people are questioning the effectiveness of the policy.
Because there's no doubt that methadone programme is a very expensive business - in more ways than one.
Scottish GPs are raking in more than £8million writing methadone prescriptions for drug addicts, the Record can reveal.
Government stats released last week claimed the heroin substitute cost taxpayers £28million a year.
But the figure didn’t take into account the annual £372.93p GPs are handed for every patient still on the drug.
A further flat fee of £1000 a year is also paid to every surgery that deals with methadone users.
The hidden cost – that Scottish Government health officials don’t even add up on a national basis – takes the true cost of keeping 22,000 Scots on methadone to £36million.
A spokesman for the British Medical Association in Scotland didn’t dispute the Record’s figure last night.
He said: “The fee is based on a contract negotiated in 2004 and the price hasn’t increased since then.
“It would be much more expensive to deliver these services in hospitals or at dedicated health centres.”
This week the Record revealed how drug companies charged £8.68million last year for the raw ingredients in methadone.
Pharmacies then claimed £19.2million for buying in the liquid and dishing it out in plastic cups.
Medics say methadone cuts crime and stabilises addicts.
But former users claimed it stole years of their life and left them more addicted to drugs than ever.
Mum-of-one Louisa Semple, 31, of Barrhead, Renfrewshire, said: “I was addicted to heroin by the age of 16. My doctor put me on methadone when I was 17 and I started off on 40mls and ended up on 105mls.
“When I told my doctor I wanted to quit at 26 he told me there was no way and that I was on the drug for the rest of my life. He told me he’d give me some antipsychotics as well.
“But I finally did quit and I haven’t taken any drugs for three years.”
A spokesman for Community Pharmacy Scotland last night defended their members.
He said: “Pharmacists are paid for dispensing methadone to patients for whom it is prescribed by their GP or addiction team as they would be for any NHS prescription they dispense.
“Pharmacists for whom this is a significant task will invariably require to invest in additional staff, additional training and in alterations to premises and sometimes investment in additional technology.
Yesterday, MSP Greame Pearson called for details to be collected to see if the methadone programme was actually working.