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Efficiency of Methadone Substitution Therapy in Belarus: figures speak for themselves

Efficiency of Methadone Substitution Therapy in Belarus: figures speak for themselves23 May 2013: Belarus continues the expansion of the network of methadone substitution therapy offices. Currently, there are about 1,000 patients throughout the country.

The 18th methadone substitution therapy point was opened today on the premises of the Homiel Tuberculosis and Narcological Dispensary. Implemented by UNDP ongoing grants of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria sponsored the repair and installation of the equipment. The total costs for the methadone substitution therapy program within the framework of the Global Fund grants have exceeded US$ 1,152,000 from January, 2010 to July, 2012.

For the first time such an office has been opened on the premises of the Tuberculosis Dispensary where patients suffering from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis can receive substitution treatment. Moreover the service allows undergoing HIV/AIDS therapy thus helping to bring back to life gravely ill patients. It’s proved that mortality rate is 10 times lower among the group of patients receiving the methadone substitution therapy than those drug addicts who aren’t in the program.

Sanaka Samarasinha, UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative in Belarus, Georgi Sakvarelidze, Manager of the Global Fund Portfolio in Belarus, Ivan Konorazov, Chief Narcologist of the Ministry of Health, and other officials took part in the inauguration ceremony of the substitution therapy point.

– The cost of medical methadone per day is less than a dollar, – said Mr. Samarasinha. – This is at least 50 times less than the cost of street drugs with US$ 50 per doze. Additionally, obtaining the money to buy illicit drugs is often related to criminal activities. The positive impact to the society is obvious.

The figures are really convincing: the treatment of 1,300 patients per year with the help of the methadone substitution therapy will be less than US$ 475,000. At the same time the cost of illegal drugs for the same quantity of injecting drug addicts per year is about US$ 23,725,000. Experts estimate the damage caused to the society by the use of illegal drugs by these people at about US$ 71,175,000 per year.

The data on the employment of the patients is even more significant: there are no methadone substitution therapy offices in the country in which the number of the patients employed is lower than 57%, while this number has reached 67% in Homiel region. The patients get jobs and restore their families.

The Global Fund Portfolio Manager Georgi Sakvarelidze being on a visit to Belarus these days, said that the Global Fund delegation had also visited the methadone substitution therapy office based on the Minsk Narcological Dispensary: “We were talking to three drug addicts in the drug substitution therapy point. One of them, by the way, participates is the programs, and the others asked to enter the program. We know that the demand for participation in the program is substantial. Moreover we had an opportunity to watch the work of the team of experts, and I should like to praise the high level of their professionalism. Their patients’ lives are actually improving. We are pleased that the methadone substitution therapy network in Belarus is expanding, and it is significant that a new office has opened in a tuberculosis establishment”.

The Chief Narcologist of the Ministry of Health Ivan Konozarov also expressed the hope that the program would develop actively.

Methadone for the substitution therapy was introduced by US doctors Vincent Dole and Marie Nyswander in 1963. The expansion of the methadone substitution therapy programs began together with the raise of HIV epidemic from the beginning of the 90s, and it is used today in more than 70 countries. The methadone substitution therapy has been operating in Belarus for 5 years. The first office was introduced is 2007. And nowadays international experts, who have been realizing such programs in their countries for decades already, admit the efficiency of drug substitution therapy in Belarus.

The objectives of the program are blocking of transmission of HIV through injection, saving the people’s lives with the help of the antiretroviral therapy, prevention and treatment of infections, withdrawal of patients from the criminal environment, employment, and restoration of families. To achieve them a stable operation of the drug substitution therapy network is required, which is the main issue nowadays.

For further information, please contact Press Service of the Global Fund Grants Management Unit in Belarus, tel.: +375 17 200-06-46.

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