Health Minister Astrid Krag (Socialistisk Folkeparti) has proposed that heroin in pill form be made available to addicts. Heroin abusers can currently receive the drug free from the state, but only as an injection.
Citing a new report from Sundhedsstyrelsen, Krag said it was time to offer a choice.
"With tablets, we get a tool that lessens the risk of incorrect dosages, injuries and incidences of cancer," Krag told Politiken newspaper. The health minister expects that the pills could be available in 2013.
The current system of state-prescribed heroin was adopted in 2008. Following years of legal wrangling, a home for the first legal injection room was found earlier this year, to the disconcertion of many Vesterbro residents. There, the government will supply the drug, clean needles and provide supervision by health professionals. Copenhagen’s mobile injection room – an old ambulance that drives around town servicing the city’s addicts – is a common sight, especially in the Vesterbro area.
The idea was that by controlling the drug-taking environment, the risk of infection by shared and reused needles would be partially eliminated. Krag said that the professionals cited in the Sundhedsstyrelsen report believed that making heroin available in pill form would lessen the risks of disease and overdose even more.
Venstre spokesperson Sophie Løhnde said her party isn’t sure where the money for the proposed heroin pills would come from.
“We are completely open to the proposal, assuming, of course, that the health minister tells us where she is going to find the money,” Løhnde told Politiken. “The current plan receives nearly 64 million kroner every year and only covers injection. It is irresponsible to propose a plan without explaining how it will be funded.”
Jonas Dahl, the health spokesperson for Socialistisk Folkeparti, downplayed the criticism.
“It is remarkable that Venstre says that financing must be in place before you make a proposal, " Dahl told Politiken. “The working procedure has always been that we first get a professional recommendation from Sundhedsstyrelsen and then find the money.”
The Sundhedsstyrelsen report included recommendations from the doctors that work at the nation’s five heroin clinics. It also looked at the latest research and international recommendations regarding the use of heroin pills.
“This will be an improvement of the current system,” said Krag. “It clearly needs to be in place by 2013.”