METHADONE: McCaffrey’s Proposal Generally Applauded
Physicians and "other addiction specialists generally welcomed the federal government's plan to make methadone more accessible," announced yesterday by White House Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, the New York Times reports (Wren, 9/30). McCaffrey said, "We have reasonably sound data that says methadone is an effective tool. We're standing behind it," (NPR, "All Things Considered," 9/29). McCaffrey recommended "the easing of restrictions on methadone use, improving the quality of methadone clinics, and allowing selected doctors to prescribe the heroin blocker for their patients." The New York Times reports that McCaffrey "compared methadone to other drugs that have been effective in treating serious illnesses." He said, "We simply can't have an approach to medicine that is so dissimilar from the tools we have brought to bear on heart disease and cancer and diabetes and other major social-medical problems affecting our society." McCaffrey said that oversight of methadone would move from the Food and Drug Administration to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and that federal funding for drug treatment would increase 38% over the next five years. He noted that the "proper" administration of methadone to addicts decreases their heroin use by 70%, their drug-related crime by 57% and increases their "gainful employment" by 24% (9/30). Further, experts say methadone also "curbs the risk of HIV from infected needles" ("All Things Considered," 9/29).
No Soup For You!
As McCaffrey outlined his new policy at the American Methadone Treatment Association yesterday in New York City, his remarks "immediately drew the wrath" of city Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R), who recently called for ending the city's methadone program (Lombardi, New York Daily News, 9/30). "I think that morally, philosophically and practically, it's a bad question for America to say, 'Let's double the number of people on methadone,'" the mayor said (New York Times, 9/30). Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, questioned, "Where is the wisdom in substituting one drug for another one? This is a system that, however well-meaning, has already failed in other countries." However, Ethan Nadelman, founder of the Lindesmith Center, said, "McCaffrey's announcement is an important move forward that reflects the scientific evidence. The challenge now will be overcoming the entrenched interests of some methadone providers who are more concerned with monopolizing access to this medicine than with expanding its availability" (USA Today, 9/30).