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Addiction experts warn of shortage of methadone tablets

Diaphin pills
A member of staff with a week's supply of Diaphin for heroin addicts at the Arud addiction centre in Zurich Keystone / Ennio Leanza

The Swiss Society of Addiction Medicine (SSAM) has warned of a possible shortage of methadone tablets in the coming weeks. It is therefore calling for the importing of these tablets to be simplified.

The shortage affects 9,000 people in Switzerland, addiction specialist Thilo Beck told Swiss public radio, SRFExternal link, on Thursday. Methadone is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a vital drug for the treatment of people addicted to opiates, such as heroin, he said. “The existence of these people is threatened,” Beck said.

Importing from abroad is currently very expensive, Enea Martinelli, a hospital pharmacist and board member of the pharmacist association pharmaSuisse, told SRF. Each authorisation costs around CHF200 ($215) and applications can only be made individually, he said.

According to SRF, Swiss drugs regulator Swissmedic has suspended, for safety reasons, the operating licence and all drug licences of an important drugs producer.

Martinelli said the company had produced not only methadone tablets but also an anaesthetic used during operations. The Swiss government found a solution for this in Germany, he said.

The only alternative with methadone is to take the drug in liquid form or, at certain pharmacies, in the form of capsules, Martinelli said.


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR