2 Months On, Punjab Yet To Let Pvt Centres Dispense Buprenorphine

Chandigarh: Struggling to spread the cover of its de-addiction programme, the Punjab health department is sitting over its two-month-old decision to allow private centres with outpatient facility to dispense drugs covered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.

To widen the availability of treatment at affordable rates, the health department in November divided de-addiction centres for treatment of substance-use disorder into two categories — one with indoor facility, and the other without an indoor facility. This allowed facilities without indoor facility to dispense buprenorphine, which, at present, is dispensed by private centres with indoor facility and government-run out-patient opioid-assisted treatment (OOAT) clinics.

Rules were framed and later communicated to civil surgeons in all districts. However, the department has not started accepting applications for allowing such centres to register. The delay has led to resentment among psychiatrists, who have spent time and money to fulfil norms in the rules.

Dr Satish Thapar, a Bathinda-based psychiatrist, is among many doctors who, in anticipation of implementation of new rules, invested in infrastructure. “I rented a space and have so far spent Rs 4 lakh,” said Dr Thapar. “I am not sure what is going to happen and what is holding the government back.”

As per rules, centres must have one full-time psychiatrist and counseller, and they must have a separate room for the doctor and dispensing with storage facility. Other infrastructural requirements include one room for counselling patients, OPD with a capcity of more than 50 patients per day, a waiting area with provision of drinking water and a rest room. There should be adequate space for storage of equipment and medicines as per the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Association of Psychiatrists (AOP) Punjab president Dr Rupinder Kapur expressed surprise over the delay behind a patient-friendly step taken by the government. She said it was appreciated, but should be implemented at the earliest. “The department, for some unforeseen circumstances, is dragging its feet on starting OPD clinics’ registration under OOAT programme. It has been almost two months since the minutes of meeting and rules were circulated by the department,” said Dr Kapur.

Punjab health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said they were reworking the modalities to ensure that there was no misuse of controlled drugs. “The new rules will be implemented only after reworking the modalities,” said Sidhu.-Times Of India

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