Positive report on the use of Buvidal in prisons

Study shows benefits for patients and staff.

A contingency measure to help prisoners affected by drug use during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is to be rolled out into the wider community after a pilot project was shown to be a success.

Last year the Scottish Government allocated £1.9 million to support people in prison on prescribed Opiate Substitution Treatment (OST) to switch to an alternative treatment of long-acting buprenorphine called Buvidal.

Patients can be given Buvidal every 28 days instead of having to receive medication daily and the initiative was intended to reduce contacts during the pandemic and mitigate against potential staff shortages.

A report by the Government’s Health and Social Care Analysis Hub (HSCA) says that high levels of satisfaction about Buvidal were reported by almost all patients and healthcare staff interviewed for this research and that the medicine had positive effects on patients’ health and wellbeing, including a reduction in drug seeking behaviour.

Drugs Policy Minister Angela Constance said:

“This report shows very encouraging feedback on the use of Buvidal and I have already announced the allocation of £4 million for the current financial year, so this treatment option can be made available more widely in prisons and in the wider community.

“During this pilot this opioid substitute resulted in positive changes in people’s emotional wellbeing, leading to positive lifestyle changes, such as people re-engaging with purposeful activities. This can enhance recovery by relieving anxiety, reducing stress, and increasing social interactions, while also fostering feelings of hope and optimism.

“The report also says the medicine appears to alleviate cravings and reduce drug seeking behaviour.

“This pilot has been a good experience for almost everyone involved - support continuity of care, while reducing the need for daily contact and reducing pressure on our front line prison officers and NHS staff.

“Of course we know a high proportion of those leaving or about to leave prison will require support for their recovery from problem drug use and we are allocating £100 million over the next five years to improve and increase residential rehabilitation places to support recovery and to reduce the pressure on local services.”

National Prisons Pharmacy Adviser for Healthcare Improvement Scotland Tom Byrne said:

“We were delighted that Scottish Government could see the benefits of Buvidal in prisons in terms of  treatment choice for patients and clinicians, patient safety and the prison environment.

“The decision to include Buvidal as a treatment choice has been widely welcomed by patients, clinicians and the Scottish Prison Service. Retention of patients on this treatment has been very high, reflecting the improvements in health and quality of life experienced by those for whom this treatment is appropriate.  

“We believe that proposals to extend access to this treatment beyond prisons and to the wider community will be a significant development in supporting delivery of the medicines assisted treatment standards, patient centred care and contribute to a reduction in drug related deaths.”


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