OTTAWA – Health Canada is planning to change regulations to allow doctors to prescribe heroin to some opioid addicts who do not respond to treatments such as methadone.
The move reverses a 2013 decision under the Harper government, which banned a group of British Columbia doctors from prescribing the drug to a small group of addicts.
In 2014, a B.C. judge granted an injunction exempting the doctors and patients from the ban.
Health Canada now plans to allow access to heroin in special cases, according to a regulatory amendment published in the Canada Gazette.
Interested parties have 30 days to comment on the proposal.
Under the change, heroin would be covered under what the department calls its special access program, or SAP.
“The SAP considers requests for emergency access to drugs for patients with serious or life-threatening conditions when conventional treatments have failed, are unsuitable, or are unavailable,” the department said in a news release.
“Each request made under the SAP is thoroughly reviewed by clinical experts at Health Canada before being granted.”
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The department said countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Switzerland allow the use of heroin to deal with a small percentage of patients not helped by other drug therapies.
There would still be tight controls on heroin, the department stressed.