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New methadone formula will be dispensed starting February 1

The formula of methadone being dispensed in B.C. is changing as of February 1.

The new formula is called Methadose, which is supposed to be safer and deliver more consistent treatment. But Methadose is 10 times stronger than the current formula.

B.C. starts covering the new Methadose under Pharmacare as of February 1. It was approved by Health Canada in the fall of 2012.

The new formula is pre-mixed and doesn’t need to be compounded, reducing the risk of overdose.

However, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC wants the public to be aware that methadone can be toxic if not administered properly.

Methadose looks the same as the current formula, which is red and cherry-flavoured.

“One of our big concerns about methadone is that it looks awfully like children’s cough mixture,” says  Dr. Ailve McNestry, head of the methadone maintenance program at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC.

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“This new Methadose doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge, so we are worried that it could be in cabinets and not be locked up. Methadone is toxic enough and that it should be locked up. If it’s not, it may be mistakenly given to a child, and that could be very toxic.”

Patients will still receive the same dose of methadone, but the amount of liquid will be one-tenth of what is normally dispensed.

The Ministry of Health says doctors and pharmacists will be letting their patients know about the new formula.

“What we consider to be a risk is the patients having to change, to drink a smaller amount of fluid, to get the same amount of medication. People can forget those kinds of instructions,” says McNestry.

There will also be posters in urban areas urging methadone users to “Think Before They Drink.”

Many people take methadone for cancer pain, and chronic non-cancer pain. There are also 13,000-14,000 people in B.C. who take methadone for addiction treatment.

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