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DTES heroin addicts concerned after federal decision

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – There’s growing concern a group of addicts are about to lose the only treatment that works for them – a regular dose of the active ingredient in heroin.

Vancouver medical professionals and Downtown Eastside activists are speaking out after a decision by the federal government.

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose has announced she’s stopping doctors from prescribing heroin and a number of other illegal drugs.

David Byres of Providence Health Care is among those who are worried about losing an option in cases where other treatments haven’t worked.

“There is no effective treatment available. So as I said, they’ve tried the current treatments at least on average 11 times and have failed at them.”

Byres says 21 addicts had already been given approval to use the treatment, and other cases were under review.

Now he’s not sure about the addicts’ futures.

“The fear from our treating physicians is they will not have any effective treatment. Much like you have heard earlier, all the gains we have made with them, the weight gain, the stable medical status, the improvement in their addiction, will all be lost.”

Byers says they’ll seek clarification from Ottawa about what the announcement means for local patients.