December 18th 1999

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Articles from this issue:

BOOKS: CHILDREN OF ENGLAND: The Heirs of King Henry VIII, by Alison Weir

Editorial - The essentials of Christianity

New book examines Swiss drug failure

Books: 'She Still Won't be Right, Mate', Psychiatrists Working Group


COMMENT - Marriage central to family life : World Congress

COMMENT - Islam and the family

BIOETHICS - Are commercial interests blinding gene researchers?

COMMENT - Snowy River myths need correction

UNITED STATES - America's forgotten people

CANBERRA OBSERVED - Business tax: now the 'hard sell'

VICTORIA - Gippsland call to reject dairy deregulation

WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION - Why Australia couldn't win in Seattle

Paying the piper ...?



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New book examines Swiss drug failure

by News Weekly

News Weekly, December 18, 1999
The World Health Organisations external experts report, published in 1999, confirms that the Swiss heroin trials have failed. The Swiss head of the trials was unable to prove that the distribution of heroin by doctors to addicts is superior, or at least equal to, the well-proven, recognised treatments of addiction. The design of the trials made it impossible to establish whether the state of health of the trial subjects was improved by the distribution of heroin by doctors, whether the crime rate among heroin addicts was lowered or whether HIV infection could be prevented. Also, exception was taken to the lack of standardised trial protocols.

A new booklet, International Criticism of the Swiss Heroin Trials published by Swiss Physicians against Drugs and Aids Information Switzerland shows that the euphoric reports of success in various media have very little to do with reality.

The assessment of the Swiss heroin trials made by the independent WHO experts is both embarrassing and humiliating for the trial leaders. However, in spite of their failure, the trial leaders are travelling the world propagating the trials success, and recommending that other countries introduce the distribution of heroin to addicts. This is contrary to the recommendations of the INCB (International Narcotics Control Board), which advises all countries against introducing the distribution of heroin as a method of treatment.

Why heroin distribution has now been established as a treatment in Switzerland is incomprehensible. At the start of the heroin trials, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) of the UN in Vienna expressed considerable reservations and concern. In 1994 the Board requested the Swiss Federal Council to have the trials checked for their scientific integrity.

The new booklet states that reports of success that appeared in the press while the heroin trials were still in progress - gave rise to scepticism among many doctors concerning the scientific integrity of the Swiss heroin trials.

The distribution of heroin has permanent, undesirable consequences:
  • treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts became more difficult;
  • science capitulated to pressure from the Swiss media and from a few trial leaders some and politicians; and
  • the trials cost about 50 million Swiss francs of taxpayers money.

Conclusions can now to be drawn from the independent appraisal. The Swiss Federal Council promised to transform the trials into the regular distribution of heroin by doctors only if they proved to be successful. However, drugs are now distributed by prescription.

Other countries in Europe will not be following the Swiss example. During a recent debate in the Danish Parliament, opposition to heroin distribution was clearly established. It is now expected that the proposal for heroin distribution will be rejected during its second reading expected to take place in January 2000.

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