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Ó Snodaigh describes Minister Harney’s claw back scheme as setback in fight against drugs

2 October, 2007

Following the seizure of €2million of heroin in Clondalkin yesterday and a decision by the HSE to introduce a 'claw back' scheme later this year, resulting in pharmacies ceasing to dispense methadone, Sinn Féin TD for Dublin and party spokesperson on community safety Aengus Ó Snodaigh has called for an emergency debate in the Dáil today and described the move by Minister Harney as "sinister and not remotely in the interest of the public."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Due to the Minister's decision that the HSE is to reduce payments to pharmacists for medicines dispensed under community drugs schemes pharmacists will be forced to dispense a number of drugs, most worryingly methadone, at a loss.

"If this decision is implemented it will mean that from December 1st when a pharmacist buys methadone for a medical card client they will do so at a higher price than the HSE will reimburse them for the medication. Pharmacies are preparing to cease dispensing methadone from October 15th.

"According to the Drug Treatment Centre Board there are 8,478 people nationally in receipt of methadone treatment. Last year 17,000 new heroin users presented at Merchants Quay. Ireland's heroin crisis has not gone away as is evidenced by the massive seizures in recent months including yesterday's seizure of €2million worth of the drug in Clondalkin.

"Methadone is not the long term answer for recovering addicts but it is acknowledged that such treatment does assist the stabilisation of heroin users. Treatment is also proven to have a positive impact on reducing petty crime.

"Waiting times for methadone treatment are disgracefully long, in some areas it can take up to 18 months. If pharmacists stop dispensing methadone where will the thousand of addict's in receipt of treatment now turn? Drug treatment clinics simply do not have the capacity to manage the potential influx of patients.

"I'm writing to Minister for Health Mary Harney to ask that she immediately intervene in this impending crisis. I am asking her to review her decision in the context of the concerns raised by Pharmacists.

"I am also demanding that she immediately make provisions for the dispensing of methadone so that the thousands of recovering addicts desperately trying to turn their lives around do not have their treatment disrupted. Such a move by the Minister would be in all our interests." CRÍOCH

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