B.C. health provider and patients file lawsuit over prescription heroin access

VANCOUVER - A constitutional court challenge has been launched over the federal government's decision to prevent doctors from prescribing heroin to addicts.

Providence Health Care, which operates St. Paul's Hospital in downtown Vancouver, says its lawsuit involves five patients who have been part of a clinical trial known as SALOME (sah-LOH-may).

The SALOME trial examined a specific form of prescription heroin and operated under a federal exemption, but patients who left the trial are no longer covered under that exemption.

Doctors in Vancouver had obtained federal approval to prescribe the heroin to 21 patients who left the trial, but last month Health Minister Rona Ambrose introduced new regulations to close what she described as a "loophole" that allowed the drug to be dispensed.

Dianne Doyle, CEO of Providence Health Care, says the patients are extremely vulnerable and haven't benefited from other treatments such as methadone.

The lawsuit alleges the new federal regulations violate the patients' charter rights and it is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to throw out the revised federal rules.


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