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New GP guidelines for drug addicts

GPs and other health professionals have been called on by the Government to work hard- er at optimising oral maintenance treatment for drug misusers before resorting to inject- able methadone and heroin.

The National Treatment Agency guidelines on inject-able heroin and methadone published last week have introduced a series of treatment steps for clinicians to follow before resorting to injectable methadone or heroin. The document recommends oral methadone should be prescribed at up to 120mg daily and buprenorhine (Subutex) should also be considered before turning to injectables.

Home Secretary David Blunkett has repeatedly called for more GP involvement in treating drug abusers, including prescribing heroin.

Dr Clare Gerada, a member of the agency's expert prescribing group, which reviewed the evidence for injectable heroin, said the new guidelines illustrate a shift away from this policy.

She said: 'When David Blunkett first announced it, it was all about injectable heroin. Now we're talking about injectable methadone.' Dr Gerada, a GP in Lambeth, south London, added: 'I think we've done well in steering the Government's mind towards a more sensible approach.'

She described it as a 'victory for common-sense'.

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