07 February 2006

More Water? - News on the Water for Injection situation:


We received a flurry of emails from concerned Needle Exchanges who were confused by apparently contradictory messages from different sources. On the one hand, Exchange Supplies mailed out their new brochure. It included promotional material relating to their 2ml ampoules of water - licensed for injection and conforming to the revised paraphernalia legislation.

But at the same time, the Guardian ran a big story saying that Needle Exchange workers were being threatened with prison for giving out too much water. Worried workers, in the throes of purchasing water, became worried that they were facing a new clampdown. So what's the reality of this situation.

The crux of the Guardian article was a restating the changes to the Paraphernalia laws relating to water (see drug news passim or click HERE. This made it lawful to distribute water to distribute ampoules of water for injection of 2ml or less, without prescription. Greater quantities would continue to fall foul of both the Medicines Act (by virtue of being a POM) and/or the Misuse of Drugs Act (as they would not fall within the revised paraphernalia legislation.)

But, with the greatest deference to Diane Taylor that the article, while technically accurate, is a little strident and liable to cause confusion and increase concern - possibly unecessarily.

The many organisations who have given out 5ml amps without a PGD have always been in breach of the law. They have typically been aware of this, and for most it's been a risk that they have been prepared to take.

Thanks to the industrious lobbying of Dericot, Preston et al the desired legislative change to the water legislation has been achieved, rightly making it lawful to distribute 2ml ampoules. It was unlawful to distribute 5ml ampoules without a PGD or similar; it remains unlawful to do so. In this respect the situation has not changed.

Granted, the non-availability of a licensed 2ml ampoule had been an issue, but as the Exchange Supplies website makes clear, they are now making available 2ml glass ampoule that is licensed and lawful.

So while the Guardian article is technically accurate when it says "But in practice the only plastic ampoules suitable for use by drug users contain 5ml of water," it unhelpfully neglects to mention availability of a glass article. Critics are arguing that the the Medical Regulatory Authority are being overly slow in terms of granting licenses to other products - most notable 1.4ml plastic water ampoules. They are right to stress these concerns. But the way that it has been reported has clearly confused some in the drugs field, which is far from helpful.

So if anything the situation is better now than it was a month ago, which is not clear from the article at all.

No comments: