Drugs campaigners in Ireland have launched an attack on pharmacists who are refusing to give methadone to thousands of recovering heroin addicts.
More than 140 chemists in Dublin have stopped dispensing the narcotic substitute because of a deepening row with health chiefs over drug prices.
Phillip Keegan, chairman of the Family Support Network (FSN), one of the country’s leading addict support groups, accused the pharmacists involved of acting unethically.
He said: “Why pick on methadone users? Is it because they’re an easy target? That’s my feeling. And the risks are huge.”
Mr Keegan warned that there was a high risk of people getting sick, overdosing and falling back into a life of crime if they could not get methadone.
Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) incurred the wrath of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) last month after revealing it would slash the price it pays for drugs, leading to savings of more than £69m a year.
The IPU said the new rate for medicines could lead to the closure of pharmacies in rural and marginalised locations throughout the country.
Opposition politicians rounded on the HSE for not sitting down to talks with the pharmacists to resolve the escalating row.
Dr James Reilly, health spokesman for opposition political party Fine Gael, said patients were being used as pawns in health sector negotiations.
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