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Germany to Distribute Prescription Heroin


March-April 1998

In late March, the German Medical Council (GMC) unanimously agreed that heroin should be distributed to a select group of long-standing addicts, and the GMC applied teo the minister of justice to legalize the medically-controlled distribution of opiates (Deirdre Cooper-Mahkorn, "German doctors vote to prescribe heroin to misusers," British Medical Journal, April 4, 1998, Vol. 316, p. 1037, Web: <>).

Dr. Ingo Flenker, a member of the GMC, said that the decision had been influenced by the success of recent heroin maintenance trials in Switzerland that markedly reduced crime, illness, disease transmission, homelessness, and unemployment among heroin users (see "Swiss Heroin Maintenance Program Declared a Success," NewsBriefs, August 1997). Several other countries, including Australia, Denmark, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, are considering heroin maintenance policies.

In the Swiss trials, heroin was prescribed as part of a comprehensive social and psychological intervention program. Dr. Flenker stressed that such a multidisciplinary approach is believed essential to the success of such a program in Germany.

The German public's response has been positive. According to the newspaper Die Woche, 55% of Germans agree that heroin addicts should receive the drug directly from a doctor. The German minister of health, Horst Seehofer, disagrees with the council's decision and feels that methadone substitution is a better approach.

Dr. Ingo Flenker - Ärztekammer Westfalen - Lippe, Gartenstr - 210-214, Münster, Germany 48147, Tel: (011) (49) 251-9290.

German Minister of Justice, Dr. Edzard Schmidt-Jortzig - Bundesministerium der Justiz, Heinemannstr 6, Bonn, Germany 53175, Tel: (011) (49) 228-580.