16/11/2012 - Cross-Party support for pharmacists dispensing methadone
Following last week’s attack by the Scottish Labour Party on the role of pharmacists dispensing methadone, politicians from other political parties have come out in support of the pharmacy profession.
The Scottish Government minister with responsibility for drug strategy, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, said, “We remain supportive of the excellent work being done by pharmacists across Scotland and as a Government we will continue to do all we can to maintain the progress that has been made through the Road to Recovery strategy.
“Pharmacists have, for many years, provided a valuable front line service to patients on their road to recovery from drug addiction across Scotland. They are well placed to dispense and supervise administration of methadone to patients, due to their skills, training and expertise.”
The Minister’s comments followed articles in a tabloid newspaper where pharmacists were characterised by a Labour MSP as methadone millionaires who profit from suffering.
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie MSP, said, ““The hysteria surrounding Scotland’s drugs strategy reached new heights last week. Instead of focusing on the dealers or pushers that blight so many lives, some MSPs turned their attention to the pharmacists who are working on the drugs programme.
“Pharmacists across Scotland are doing no more than implementing the policies that MSPs agreed on a cross-party basis. It is not easy work, it is not pleasant, but it benefits everyone. We need to be careful about demonising the work of pharmacists and demonising the methadone programme – it is part of the solution not part of the problem.
“The scandal is not the provision of methadone for drug users or the role pharmacists play in that strategy, but that drug addiction remains so rampant in one of the world’s wealthiest nations. MSPs have a responsibility to remember that when debating Scotland’s drug strategy in the future.”
The Scottish Conservative Spokesperson for Health, Jackson Carlaw MSP, said in the Parliament, “Pharmacists are tasked with the responsibility of implementing and helping with the ‘Road to Recovery’ strategy. To use pejorative language like “methadone millionaires” was just unfortunate. That devalued the debate before it began, which was unhelpful and not constructive.”
Director of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland, Alex MacKinnon, welcomed the supportive comments. He said, “Last week’s debate was an opportunity to move the drugs strategy in Scotland forward in a consensual way. Pharmacists and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society strongly support that approach. Pharmacists will play a key role in the Scottish Government’s expert working group looking at updating the ‘Road to Recovery’ strategy. The very welcome messages of support from the Scottish Government and the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives bode well for continued broad understanding and consensus in tackling Scotland’s drug problem and the role of pharmacists in that.”
“The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has also had discussions with the Labour Party to clarify their understanding of the role of pharmacists in providing the methadone service. We shall be meeting with their leader, Johann Lamont, and their justice spokespeople Lewis Macdonald and Jenny Marra next week. We want to move the discussion forward in a more positive direction. It’s time to grasp the opportunity to move forward together and improve the way we help drug misusers in Scotland.”