New Delhi: In a ray of hope to individuals seeking treatment of opium and heroin dependence, AIIMS has decided to start a permanent facility to treat such persons with drug Methadone.
The initiative would slash down the treatment cost nearly half of the therapy currently being followed country-wide to treat such patients.
Long-term treatment of opioid dependence with Methadone, which normally runs for two-four years, would cost nearly half as compared to drug Buprenorphine, which, till recently, was the only available medicine in India for long term treatment.
The decision came after a pilot project to study the response of the drug on Indian patients was successfully conducted by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) of AIIMS.
"Under the pilot project, which was started in February last year, over 450 addicts were put on Methadone in five various centres of the country. The results have shown significant improvement in the quality of life of addicts.
"Hence, the centre being run by AIIMS would permanently start putting patients on Methadone therapy, which is currently being administered only as part of the project, which is going to end soon in coming three-four months," a senior doctor of NDDTC said.
He said Methadone therapy would prove a boon for such addicts, most of whom are from economically weaker sections of the society, as daily treatment with the new drug would cost around Rs 12-15 per patient, as compared to Buprenorphine medication which amounts to around Rs 30-35 per patient.
"Although per day drug cost difference sounds negligible, it is otherwise quite significant as patients have to take drug at least for two-four years to get rid of opium dependence," the doctor said.
He said the project was jointly launched by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and NDDTC.
Apart from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, only five centres in the country, including Civil Hospitals of Kapurthala and Bathinda districts of Punjab, King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, Mumbai and Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), Imphal, are providing methadone-based treatment to opioid users.
Approximately 70 countries use opioid substitution therapy for opioid users worldwide of which 48 use methadone treatment, he said.
"Through this project, about 450 opioid addicts have been provided Methadone till date. The opioid user has to come daily to the centre to receive his dose. Early results show that most of the patients, maintaining this treatment, have stopped using illicit opioids.
"Violence in the family as well as petty crimes has decreased in the nearby areas where this intervention has started. The patients have reported improvement in the quality of their life, and the families of the opioid users have welcomed this treatment approach," he said.
He added that results thrown by the project has also generated interest among the policy makers and the government which is exploring options to scale-up this pilot initiative to other parts of the country.