Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Canadian Gov Reneges on Funding for 2nd Phase Heroin Trials (SALOME)

I had just finshed writing about the success of the latest study by the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI) when I stumbled on a news article titled, “Rehab centre upset after Quebec pulls funds for heroin study”. Slightly confused, I quickly read the article and discovered that the fucked up Harper government in Canada were again playing god with people’s lives and putting their ideology before science. Just days after the New England Journal of Medicine published the positive results for Canada’s latest heroin trial, the Harper Government has pulled funding for the second phase of the study called SALOME.

What is the NAOMI clinical trial? (Phase 1)
The North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI) was a randomized trial aimed at testing whether medically prescribed diacetylmorphine, the active ingredient in heroin, was more efficient than methadone therapy for individuals with chronic opioid dependence who were not benefiting from other conventional treatments. The results show that patients treated with injectable diacetylmorphine were more likely to stay in treatment and more likely to reduce their use of illegal drugs and other illegal activities than patients treated with oral methadone.
-SALOME Clinical Trial Questions and Answers

What is the SALOME clinical trial? (Phase 2)
The Study to Assess Longer-term Opioid Medication Effectiveness is a clinical trial that will test whether diacetylmorphine, the active ingredient of heroin, is as good as hydromorphone (Dilaudid®), a licensed medication, in benefiting people suffering from chronic opioid addiction who are not benefiting sufficiently from other treatments. Also, this study will test if those effectively treated with these 2 injectable medications can be successfully switched and retained to the oral formulations of the medications.
-SALOME Clinical Trial Questions and Answers

It has always surprised me that the conservative Canadian government actually agreed to fund this study but to pull out as soon as the first study produced such positive results raises my suspicions. Were they expecting the trial of heroin assisted treatment (HAT) to fail? Was the promise to fund the 2nd phase just empty rhetoric with the expectations that they would never have to fund part two of a failed study? Considering that the government has just recently introduced new harsher laws for small time drug users including mandatory sentencing and the success of the latest heroin trials, how can we not be suspicious of the Harper Government’s motives.

Rehab Centre Upset After Quebec Pulls Funds For Heroin Study
The Gazette
By Aaron Derfel
August 2009

A Montreal drug-treatment centre is accusing the provincial government of playing politics in killing funding for a three-year study to treat heroin addiction.

The cancellation of the $600,000 grant follows the publication this week of a study showing that giving heroin to hard-core addicts at the centre's supervised clinic leads to higher rates of recovery.

"We're very surprised because all the discussions that we had with the (Social Services) minister in the last few weeks were very positive," said Eric Fabrès, the centre's co-ordinator of quality services. "We can't understand why the minister has changed her position. ... But we find it very peculiar that at the moment that we published the results in the New England Journal of Medicine, the minister decided to withdraw her support from the project."

The study, titled the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI), sought to analyze whether heroin-assisted therapy offers more benefit to addicts who want to kick their habit than standard methadone treatment.

The researchers monitored 251 addicts in Montreal and Vancouver. In Montreal, addicts were given heroin at the Centre de recherche et d'aide pour narcomanes.

The study found that among addicts who received heroin by injection, 88 per cent completed the recovery program, compared with a 54-per-cent completion rate for those who took oral methadone.

But researchers also discovered that 10 per cent of addicts who took Dilaudid, a legal prescription opiate known as hydromorphone, did as well as those on heroin.

For the second phase of the research, titled SALOME (Study to

Assess Longer-term Opioid Medication Effectiveness), scientists wanted to compare heroin and Dilaudid for a three-year period.

The rationale is that if Dilaudid is truly as good as heroin in helping diehard addicts recover, it would solve the legal problem of having to use heroin, Fabrès said.

"But without the funding, the project is dead," he added.

Geneviève Trudel, political attaché to Social Services Minister Lise Thériault, said the decision to cancel the grant was simply cost-cutting.

Related Articles:
Canada Provides the Final Proof Needed for Heroin Assisted Treatment
Quebec's landmark heroin study in jeopardy
SALOME: Clinical Trial Questions and Answers

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