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One pill to kill say methadone bereaved

Candor Trust 29/11/06

One pill to kill say methadone bereaved

The FDA yesterday warned health care professionals about the dangers of
methadone including cardio-toxicity, saying Prescribers' should read and
carefully follow prescribing information. Methadone is a synthetic opiate
commonly given to opiate addicts so their lives will be less chaotic.

NZs Candor (Campaign Against Drugs on Roads) group believes FDA are responding to Melissa Zuppardi's ferocious 'one pill to kill' campaign. 'We support her campaign, we know bad treatment has severe implications for road safety.'
Zuppardi of Connecticut has begun a petition asking for improved treatment
standards and more effort to stop dangerous on-selling.

On June 24th 2006, Zuppardis fiance pro sportsman Ron, was prescribed methadone in a detox facility for percocet addiction after knee surgery. He was
administered excessive amounts of methadone and valium. He was dead several
hours before staff checked on him. He was 32 years old. He has 2 children.

676 people – often similarly affected to Melissa have signed the petition in
it's short life to date. Methadone supporters have debated it's merits with
Melissa. Who notes the irony of methadones 'strongest supporters besides
pharmaceutical companies' being the patients who are 'exploited and
victimised', by those benefiting the most.

The FDA's announcement says Prescribers, Patients and Caregivers should all be
alert to 3 key points.

Taking more methadone than prescribed can cause death. Taking other medicines or dietary supplements atop methadone can cause death. Overdose symptoms include confusion, tiredness and breathing difficulties, if present get medical
attention fast.

In the wake of recent high mortality the FDA notes 'prescribing methadone is
complex.' A medication guide for patients is planned. Box warnings currently
don't caution against interactions with other drugs – a common overdose cause.

In 2003 methadone contributed to 2,992 deaths in the States. Though cognisant
of an epidemic, the FDA then refused to even require box warnings regarding the
drugs cardio-toxicity despite studies show potentially fatal arrhythmias are
common.

The rumblings of discontent over the U.S. epidemic were not quelled any by a
cross departmental report undertaken. It put the deaths down to increased use
pain prescriptions - rather than addiction treatment, and was heavily influenced
by treatment expert Stewart Leavitt. A methadone manufacturer employee.

Relatives of victims couldn't ignore the fact methadone didn't discriminate.
Just as in New Zealand, deaths hit methadone program patients and those they on
sell methadone to, more often than Leavitts report intimated. Anecdotally NZ has
worse problems than the United States, says Candor Trusts Rachael Ford.

Coroner Kershaw has commented there is a perception methadone was a
'therapeutic' drug, though it's 'just as dangerous as the drugs it replaced'.
He was concerned users are unaware the drug kills as many people as morphine and heroin. 'It's because they get huge takeaways & the program's too soft' says
Ford.

From July 1995 to June 1998 there were 44 methadone related deaths in New
Zealand – four of them in Wairarapa or about 10% of Wairarapa patients. In the
same period 40 New Zealanders died of heroin or morphine overdoses. This does
not take in to account deaths caused by methadone impaired drivers, which Candor estimate to be 15-20% of the toll.

Long term patients of a North Island clinic who admit to being transient and
moving randomly for years say it's the same all over. A lot of methadone is sold
outside Pharmacies, often to P (methamphetamine) addicts wanting to 'chill'.
Sellers then continue on to some location where they can use the spoils to buy
P.

'They all drive – they have to to get their drugs' said an informant. 'I asked
the meth Drs to stop the diversion as it worries me sick. Someones gonna die or
something, don't know how many times I seen mates turn blue, but the Doc just
offered me antidepressants'.

In the face of some alarming statistics the Ministry of Health hasn't made
changes or set out to record patient mortality or road accidents, say Candor.
Green MP Sue Kedgley has recently highlighted prolonged delays with setting up some system to report adverse events in NZ's Health system.

Ends


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