Pharmacies are issuing more methadone prescriptions in Kirkcaldy than anywhere else in Fife - and charging taxpayers more for it.
According to figures released this week, two Kirkcaldy pharmacies claimed over £40,000 each in fees to administer just over 1500 prescriptions of the heroin substitute in 2014.
...people can get ‘parked on’ methadone for a number of yearsJohn Kennedy
They were MacPharm on St Clair Street and Lloyds on Dunearn Road in Templehall.
Statistics compiled by the BBC also revealed Kirkcaldy chemists administered more methadone ‘scripts’ than any other area in Fife - with ten pharmacies handling 3,841 prescriptions at a cost of just under £185,000.
But cost variances between chemists, and more notably between regions in Scotland, were revealing.
For example, while MacPharm Ltd on St Clair Street charged Fife NHS over £60 per prescription, Wellbeing on Dysart’s High Street charged almost half at £32.
Meanwhile, in Glasgow, Easterhouse health centre administered nearly 6,000 prescriptions of methadone at a cost to the taxpayer of just £4.36 each.
Prof Neil McKeganey, from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, criticised the use of methadone - which caused 13 fatalities in Fife in 2013 - as “a black hole into which people are disappearing”.
However, John Kennedy, area co-ordinator with Fife’s Drug and Alcohol Project Ltd (DAPL), said it was a vital “first tool in the armoury” for clinicians to help stabilise patients and give them a semblance of a normal life.
“I think then the trouble is that often, because of the inherent chaos surrounding drug addiction, adhering to a reduction programme is tough, so people can get ‘parked on’ methadone for a number of years and I know this has been talked about, and will continue to be talked about,” he commented.
“Lots of people and agencies are trying to reduce use but you need patients to be fully compliant with that.”
NHS Fife said its current fee for dispensing a dose of methadone was £1.83 and the fee for supervising a dose of methadone was £1.43.
Dr Frances Elliot, NHS Fife’s medical director said: “The costs for individual patients are variable due to a number of factors such as the length of time they require the treatment and what stage of treatment the patient is at.”
She added: “Patients may also have it prescribed for other conditions such as chronic pain relief.”