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Kazakhstan Healthcare Ministry will not expand methadone program

07 августа 2013, 10:40
Photo courtesy of jobs4nurses.ie
Photo courtesy of jobs4nurses.ie
273 patients are taking part in the opioid substitution therapy (OST) program in Kazakhstan. The program provides for use of methadone drug for treatment of drug addiction. There are no plans to increase the number of the patients this year, Tengrinews.kz reports citing Kazakhstan Healthcare Ministry.

OST program is currently being implemented in 10 regions of Kazakhstan. The patients include 210 men and 63 women. In the course of the program 120 people got employed and 30 people got married. 96 percent of the program’s participants have reported improvements of their family relations. However, the Ministry does not deny that different organizations insist on a broader spread of this program in Kazakhstan.

The methadone therapy has been used in Kazakhstan as part of a pilot project since 2008. The pilot project was launched in Pavlodar and Temirtau. Its main objective is to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS among drug addicts in the country. In the course of the program the drug addict are switched from heroin to methadone that is administered once a day. This program has caused many disputes in different countries. Russia has refused to implement the program altogether saying that treating drugs with drugs would do not eliminate the problem.

Kazakhstan Healthcare Ministry, meanwhile, supports that idea that the OST program helps achieve long abstinence from drugs. The patients can go back to normal lifestyle while constantly taking the supportive doses of methadone. “We believe the use of the OST possible as one of the methods of treatment of drug addiction,” the Ministry stated.

However, many Kazakhstan doctors and public persons disagree with the ministry's position. They oppose implementation of the OST in Kazakhstan. According to them, the medicine replacing the drug is a subject of commercial lobbying by certain pharmaceutics companies.

According to Korlan Saduakassov, professor at the Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Narcology Department of Asfendiyarov Kazakhstan National Medical University, this is a common management system for distribution of medicines that have been piling up somewhere in a warehouses for too long. According to him, the medicine cost is currently covered by international organizations but later Kazakhstan will have to pay for it by itself. Considering the number of drug addicts, the medicines would cost hundreds of millions dollars of the state budget.

Besides, the experts believe that the patients become very dependent on the daily dose of methadone, aggressive and suicidal. 60 percent of those who take methadone become unable to have sex, while 75 percent of women taking methadone have broken or no menstrual cycles at all.

The Ministry has a different opinion: “Long consumption of methadone stabilizes the patients’ mind, thus helping their social rehabilitation and their reintegration to the society. Just like all opioids, methadone may cause deterioration of the sexual attraction. But such effect is related to individual characteristics of the patients.” OST program in Kazakhstan in funded via a grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. 14.7 million tenge ($98 thousand) were spend under OST program in the first 6 months of 2013.

Earlier Tengrinews.kz reported that former U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Richard Hoagland had sent a letter to Kazakhstan Healthcare Minister Salidat Kairbekova. Commenting the letter years later, President of the National Medical Association Aizhan Sadykova said that the United States were pushing Kazakhstan to continue the methadone program.

You can see a copy of the letter here.

The U.S. embassy later commented that methadone was not mentioned in the letter of the former U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Richard Hoagland to Kazakhstan Healthcare Minister Salidat Kairbekova and denied the blackmailing the Minister. Kairbekova later waived away being blackmailed by the Ambassador as well.

By Vladimir Prokopenko

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