Newsbrief: Spanish Government Okays Heroin Maintenance in Catalonia 7/25/03

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The Spanish Medical Agency has approved a request from the regional government of Catalonia to begin a heroin maintenance pilot program, according to wire service reports Wednesday. A similar program has been in effect in Andalusia for the past year. The Catalonia program should be up and running by the end of September, health spokesman Xavier Pomes told reporters.

Aimed at hard-core users not amenable to methadone or other treatments, the Catalonia program will try two different approaches. Some 45 subjects will be hospitalized at the St. Paul and Valley of Hebron hospitals in Barcelona and the Mutual Hospital in Terrassa for 90 days. One-third will receive heroin, one-third morphine, and one-third methadone. In the second study, 90 heroin users will come to the hospitals daily for their walk-in drugs. As in the first study, users will receive either heroin, morphine or methadone.

The intention of the programs is to "improve the quality of life of the heroin users who have not succeeded in detoxifying themselves from their addiction," said Pomes, adding that methadone maintenance programs had a failure rate of about 10%. Those who will participate in the heroin maintenance studies, said Pomes, "are a habitually marginal group who have failed to obtain results with methadone on one or more occasions."

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