Ilford pharmacy pilots ‘game-changing’ injection for drug addicts

Shaheen Bhatia and her client Georgi Bayodher. Picture: P&S Chemist

Shaheen Bhatia and her client Georgi Bayodher. Picture: P&S Chemist - Credit: Archant

An Ilford pharmacy has become the first in the country to treat opioid addicts with a monthly injection - and says the results have been life-changing for clients.

Patients are usually treated with daily medication, but receiving medication under supervision on a daily basis can make long-term recovery difficult, says Shaheen Bhatia, from P&S Chemist in Ilford Lane, which is piloting the new injection called Buvidal.

"People who are opiate drug dependents will have trouble keeping down a job because they need to get out daily for their pick ups," she said.

"Sometimes they can relapse because they miss picking up because of family commitments or their kids are ill.

"Missing out on their medication will inevitably lead to relapse and them using street heroin or other drugs."

The pharmacy worked with Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group, Redbridge Council, Westminster Drug Project, and the drug company Camurus - which manufactures the injection - to launch the pilot.

Ms Bhatia said: "I am now very proud to say that Redbridge is leading on this work compared to the rest of the UK."

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She said the feedback from clients has been "excellent" and she sees it as a "game-changer" for opioid dependency treatment.

Ms Bhatia, who has been a pharmacist at P&S Chemist for 32 years, said: "Quite a number of them said that they feel the injection has removed the stigma they felt about themselves as drug addicts.

"One person said she thought she could never have a normal holiday, especially if she didn't want people to know she was on this medication, but for the first time she went away having had the injection and had no problems.

"One client said he feels "he can really get away from the street drug gangs using needles and syringes which really messes you up".

"Because of drugs, he ended up without a job, being homeless, and having no self respect.

"The future looked very bleak as he thought no employer would hire him.

"But not having to pick up every day has now meant he can start looking for a job again. He is starting to feel human and normal."

Patients can be referred through Redbridge's drug and alcohol team and the pilot is expected to continue for at least one year.