The sale of buprenorphine sublingual medicine against opioid dependence has been restricted to the de-addiction centres in the state, and from now it will not be available at the chemist’s.
The medicine is used to treat addiction to opioid drugs such as heroin and narcotic painkillers. On November 28 also, state drug controller Ajay Singla had issued a circular in this regard to all assistant drug controllers, zonal licensing authorities, and drug inspectors in the state. In Punjab, the tablet will be available only at 75 de-addiction centres, of which 50 are private.
Sources said the reports of addicts’ misusing this prescription drug had made the department concerned stop its retailing. “This decision was taken as per the guidelines of the drugs controller general of India in New Delhi,” said Singla, adding: “Buprenorphine sublingual tablet (0.4mg and 2mg), either alone or in combination with Naloxone, is approved specifically for opioid de-addiction and the supply is meant for approved de-addiction centres only. As these preparations are not meant for pain management and palliative care, these will not be available with the retail chemists for the OPD patients.”
Singla further said his office had informed the manufacturers concerned in the state not to send any medicine to the retail sector. Recently, the police had arrested Dr Sudha Vasudev, in charge of the de-addiction centre at Lord Mahavira Civil Hospital, Ludhiana; and Dr Ashish Sharma of Ivy hospital under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act from Machhiwara on the charge that they possessed 18,050 tablets of buprenorphine and had been selling the drug without license. Punjab and Chandigarh unit of the Indian Psychiatric Association (PUNCIPS) had opposed the action and called for boycotting the recommending of buprenorphine in protest.
Psychiatrists oppose the move
The Ludhiana psychiatric forum has opposed the move of the government to restrict the sale of buprenorphine, saying it will make an adverse impact on the people under treatment. “It will lead to a massive increase in the number of substance-dependent individuals and criminal cases, leading to fear in their minds, withdrawal effects, and relapse,” said Ludhiana psychiatrist Dr Rajeev Gupta.
PUNCIPS president Dr Satish Verma said that the medicine was “very effective”, and restrict its sale would harm patients. On the question of mephedrone’s being alternative to buprenorphine, he said:
“Buprenorphine can be administered to patients at home also but since mephedrone is in the liquid form, the patient has to take it in the presence of a doctor at a recognised centre, which they find it difficult to visit again and again.”