[IMGL="http://i4.dailyrecord.co.uk/incoming/article1269939.ece/ALTERNATES/s615/Methadone.jpg"][/IMGL]THE shocking scale of Scotland’s multi-million pound methadone industry can be revealed in the Daily Record today.
Hundreds of chemists, from high street giants Boots to small independent pharmacies, are being paid tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash to dish out the heroin substitute.
Details of the main players in the £36million-a-year business – and the extraordinary sums of public money paid to them – have been kept secret by the NHS until now.
The data was released only after the Record fought a three-month battle with health bosses using freedom of information laws.
Methadone is supposed to wean addicts off heroin. But, as we revealed on Saturday, it was linked to a record 275 of 584 drug deaths in Scotland last year. Heroin, by comparison, played a part in 206 deaths.
There are 22,000 people on the methadone programme. The Scottish Government couldn't tell us how many addicts were drug-free as a result ofthe programme.
But they continue to dish out cash on the treatment – and pharmacists continue to rake it in.
Boots were handed £3,828,607 last year for methadone services. They claimed £20,815,537 over six years through their 267 Scots branches.
Lloyds Pharmacy claimed £3,727,390 last year and £18,708564 over six years through their 188 branches.
Our investigation also uncovered one pharmacist – methadone millionaire Denis Houlihan – who has claimed more than £850,000 through just ONE chemist shop over six years.
Many chemists who dispense methadone top up their earnings by supplying addicts with needles for injecting drugs.
Heroin addicts are supposed to give up illegal drugs in order to be accepted on to the methadone programme.
The theory is that they will take decreasing amounts until they are drug-free.
But addicts we interviewed said they had been left on methadone for decades without being offered any rehabilitation.
And many said they often took heroin at the same time as their legal fix.
Denis and Patricia Houlihan own Scotland’s top-earning individual pharmacy for methadone dispensing.
Through their shop in deprived Possilpark, Glasgow, the couple were paid £856,255 between 2006 and 2011 through the programme. They claimed £134,762 from the premises last year alone.
Every day, a long line of addicts line up for their “script”, making the Saracen Street shop the most lucrative methadone distribution point in Scotland for the last six years.
Mr Houlihan, 45. also gets paid thousands of pounds to run a needle exchange from the shop. Many of the addicts he supplies with methadone take advantage of the free needles.
Irishman Mr Houlihan owns another seven pharmacies, many of which are in addiction hotspots in Glasgow.
More than £1,508,270 cash has been paid to him for methadone services in the last six years.
We made repeated attempts to contact the Houlihans for comment but received no response.
Pharmacists are paid £2.32 for dispensing every dose of methadone and £1.33 for supervising addicts while they take it. Chemists pay the wholesale cost of buying methadone from the Government money they claim.
Around 60 per cent of the cash they are paid is made up of their handling fee for the drug and their charges for dishing it out to addicts.
Another couple, Deborah and Martin Green, own Scotland’s highest earning Scottish-based pharmacy company for dispensing methadone.
Through their 11 Glasgow pharmacies, they have claimed £1,680,319 in the last six years for methadone services. Their shop on Glasgow’s Cumbernauld Road alone claimed £97,270 for methadone services last year.
Mr Green runs M&D Green from the family’s £1.5million Georgian mansion in Milngavie, near Glasgow.
When we contacted the father-of-five for comment, he referred us to trade body Community Pharmacy Scotland.
John Rossi, owner of the Tollcross Pharmacy on Tollcross Road, Glasgow, also makes a fortune from methadone.
He has claimed £673,036 over the last six years.
He said: “I couldn’t comment on how much methadone we dispense compared with any other pharmacy because I don’t have that information.”
Glasgow-based John Gilbride owns the second highest earning Scottish-based pharmacy company for methadone services over the last six years.
J. Gilbride raked in £1,673660 from a chain of chemists in addiction hotspots.
He also referred us to the Community Pharmacy Scotland for comment.
In February, the Record revealed that the Scottish Government have spent £129million on methadone over the last five years. Around £40million more is thought to have been paid to GPs for writing prescriptions for addicts over that time.
Many addicts and addiction workers claim those on methadone rarely come off it and the daily dose often goes up, rather than down.
The Record made repeated requests to the Scottish Government for evidence to show that the programme works.
Months ago, we asked specifically how many addicts had been weaned off heroin through methadone.
But they could not produce figures. A spokesman said: “There are currently no centrally held statistics on length of methadone treatments in Scotland.”
Community Pharmacy Scotland, who represent the owners of chemists, were more in the know.
A spokesman said: “Government research showed the economic and social cost of illicit drug use in Scotland in 2006.
“A sample of the figures shows that a drug misuser not in treatment cost £50,247 in terms of health, crime and wider social and criminal consequences costs.
“A misuser in methadone treatment for a year or less saw that figure plummet to £23,085. And those in treatment for more than a year saw a further dramatic
reduction to £5781.
“In essence, each drug misuser in the methadone programme saw a saving to society of almost £45,000.
“The evidence to support the appropriate use of methadone is overwhelming.
“A community pharmacy is obliged to provide methadone when it has been prescribed. Pharmacists for whom this is a significant task must often invest in additional staff, training and in alterations to premises and sometimes investment in additional technology.”
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