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Slow release opioid substitute gives Glasgow patients new lease of life

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A slow release opioid substitute is helping opioid dependent patients get their lives back on track and has been described as ‘life-changing’ by those on the treatment.

More than 100 patients across Glasgow are now being treated with Buvidal, which is administered via monthly ‘depot’ injections by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Alcohol and Drugs Recovery Services teams.

The depot injection is an alternative way to deliver the drug buprenorphine, removing the need for patients to regularly attend pharmacies or worry about picking up prescriptions as once they receive their injection, they do not need another treatment for 28 days.

As a result, patients are able to focus on improving their lives and overall health. In an NHSGGC pilot involving 14 patients last year in Glasgow, more than six months after the trial, all patients remained engaged in structured activity such as working with recovery community, undertaking occupational therapy, employment, or employment training.

The pilot has since expanded and Glasgow now treats the highest number of patients in Scotland, with more patients than ever before being offered Buvidal as a treatment.

While the treatment must currently be administered within NHSGGC’s Alcohol and Drug Recovery Services team, clinicians hope to see a much wider uptake among those with opioid dependence as more training is provided in the future.

Not having to worry about their daily prescription has been central to the success of the treatment, and also means that for those with young families, there is no risk of children accidentally ingesting opioid medication found in the house. Furthermore, as health services look set to resume in the context of COVID-19, pharmacies can more effectively manage social distancing and patients in the shielded category reduce the risk of catching the virus.

An added benefit for those seeking treatment is the removal of stigma around picking up opioid prescriptions at the pharmacy. Some patients have also been able to go on holiday without worrying about taking medication through customs.

Dr Trina Ritchie, Lead Clinician for NHSGGC’s Alcohol and Drug Recovery Services, said:

“Buvidal is a welcome addition to treatment options for people who use heroin and other opioids. While it’s not ideal for everyone, many of those who have taken up this treatment option are experiencing real life changing benefits.  Working on expanding the service is a key priority and while Glasgow is currently treating the highest number of patients in Scotland, we’d like to see the service expanded across regions to help provide ongoing Buvidal treatment across Scotland and the UK.”

Jennifer Kelly, prescribing pharmacist for NHSGGC’s Alcohol and Drug Recovery Services added: “Patient feedback has been overwhelmingly positive following the pilot, and as we move into remobilisation of the health service post-COVID, use of depot injections and specifically Buvidal helps navigate challenges around social distancing and avoids unessential visits to pharmacies.

“Buvidal works best for those patients committed to moving away from opioid use, helping block opioid receptors in the brain for up to one month. As a result this allows patients to engage with the services they need such as occupational therapy, mental health and social services, and to become more involved with the recovery community which provides the long-term support required to help make sure that they do not relapse into old habits.”


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Last Updated: 11 November 2021