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Recovering opioid addicts say Health Ministry is giving them expired medications

Recovering opioid addicts say Health Ministry is giving them expired medications

A pharmacy employee holds a box of medication in Beirut, Lebanon May 28, 2021. (Credit: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters)

BEIRUT — Doctors and people undergoing addiction treatment told L’Orient Today this week that recovering heroin addicts are being given expired medications by the Health Ministry.

“I give up on staying clean. I have done everything I could to maintain my recovery and stick to my medication. Is this how we are supposed to suffer now? We are supposed to go back to our addiction?” Mohamad, a recovering heroin addict, told L’Orient Today.

Mohamad had originally started taking Suboxone, which is no longer available on the market, and is now taking Buprenorphine but said he stopped a few days ago after he discovered his latest batch, which he picked up from Rafic Hariri University Hospital in Beirut, had expired three months earlier.

Two doctors who work in addiction treatment said their patient had faced the same issue, with some receiving medication that expired as much as a year earlier.

In Lebanon, only two governmental hospitals, RHUH and Elias Hrawi Governmental Hospital in Zahle, are assigned to give out these medications to former addicts, in coordination with the Health Ministry and its narcotics department.

Representatives of the two hospitals could not be reached and the Health Ministry did not respond to requests for comment on the issue.

In November, health experts told L’Orient Today that some 1,200 recovering heroin addicts might soon no longer be able to get the medication used in their treatment.

In response, the Health Ministry had then issued a statement saying that it is “endeavoring on more than one level to prevent interruptions” in the supply of drug addiction medications. The Ministry announced at the time that it had already reached an agreement with the manufacturer of Suboxone, in order to secure additional stocks.

Suboxone and Buprenorphine are commonly used in Lebanon to treat people trying to overcome opiate addiction. Both are now scarce, as are many imported drugs officially subsidized through the central bank.

A coalition of associations concerned with providing “alternative” treatment for people with drug usage issues – including AJEM (Association of Justice and Mercy), SKOUN (Lebanese Center for Addiction Treatment and Prevention,) SIDC, the Health Care Society, MENAHRA (the MENA Harm Reduction Association), and MENANPUD (the Network for Working with People Who Use Drugs) – issued a statement Thursday calling on the Central Bank to provide the credits to secure these medications as soon as possible. They also called on the Health Ministry to find long-term solutions to ensure that the supply of these alternative medicines is not interrupted, and to work on finding sources for other imports.

“We also call upon the Health Ministry to prepare governmental hospitals with departments specializing in psychiatric, mental and addictive diseases in order to increase the number of beds for these patients and to cover the hospitals’ expenses, so that their future operation can be secured,” the statement said.  


BEIRUT — Doctors and people undergoing addiction treatment told L’Orient Today this week that recovering heroin addicts are being given expired medications by the Health Ministry. “I give up on staying clean. I have done everything I could to maintain my recovery and stick to my medication. Is this how we are supposed to suffer now? We are supposed to go back to our addiction?” Mohamad,...