HEROIN ADDICTS DENIED 'CRIME-CUTTING' IMPLANTS
HEROIN addicts are being denied a new implant treatment claimed to have cut
crime in a Yorkshire city after a doctor who has given it to hundreds of
offenders was ordered to stop by health chiefs.
More than 300 heroin users in Bradford have had surgery to fit implants
that block the effect of heroin.
Use of the therapy has been backed by a Government initiative to cut
drug-related re-offending amid evidence that it has contributed to a fall
in crime in Bradford.
But now specialist GP Michael Ross has been told by health chiefs in the
city that he cannot give new patients the treatment, which is unlicensed in
Dr Ross, who began using the implants two years ago and is the only doctor
in the country to offer them on the NHS, said implants of the drug
naltrexone were "as big a step forward as methadone" in treating heroin
"It's a great shame -- a catastrophe for Bradford," he said.
"The effects are absolutely tremendous -- completely transforming the lives
of a large proportion of people with the implant, the lives of their
families and the Bradford community.
"There is evidence of a very significant effect on breaking the drugs-crime
cycle. With the implant they don't even think about taking drugs."
He said the drug was already taken in pill form but the implants were more
effective, as patients did not have to remember to take them. They were not
licensed in this country but have been successfully used in Australia. Dr
Ross was entitled to use them if he felt they would be of benefit to his
patients in the same way many medicines are prescribed by doctors, notably
The decision to stop their use means he can implant them in existing
patients but could not on new referrals until he has approval for research
on the approach -- which could take many months.
"There are people sitting there in Armley or other prisons who want to have
an implant when they come out and won't be able to," he said.
Patient Mark Cleary, 26, was hooked on a #100-a-day heroin habit for more
than a decade.
He has been clear of the drug since he was given an implant on his release
last month from a six-month sentence for theft and burglary -- his tenth
h. "It's stopped me committing crime. I've known nothing but
heroin -- this has given me the opportunity to sort my life out," he said.
Det Con Malcolm Lightowler, of Bradford Criminal Justice Intervention
Programme which has referred 80 offenders for implants, told the magazine
Druglink published by the charity DrugScope: "The scar from the implant
operation is the new designer badge among ex-offenders in Bradford.
"They are boasting about their lack of offending because they don't have to
fund a drug habit. If they are bragging about not committing crimes then it
must be working."
Druglink editor Harry Shapiro said: "There is some very strong anecdotal
evidence about the success of naltrexone implants."
The chief executive of Bradford City Teaching Primary Care Trust (PCT),
Lynnette Throp, said:
"The problem is that this treatment used by Dr Ross is rarely used anywhere
else in the NHS and there is no nationally recognised sound evidence to
prove its success.
"As a PCT we must follow clear national advice, which currently is that
this treatment should be carried out within the context of a research
project and we are supporting Dr Ross in the establishment of such research."
The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, which issues
guidelines, said in the absence of both a licence and evidence of its
benefits, the implants were "not an appropriate form of mainstream drug
However, it said, "We recognise that there is continuing debate on the
evidence and we are monitoring the outcome of this debate closely.
Additional research, followed by proper licensing, if then appropriate, is