Finnish experts are insisting that Estonia end over-the-counter sale of Subutex, a drug meant for the treatment of narcotic dependence which is hugely popular among Finnish drug addicts.
The Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health fears that after Estonia's accession to the Schengen zone on Dec. 21 illegal import of Subutex from Estonia to Finland will increase, the Finnish STT agency reports.
According to the Finnish ministry's information, around 500 - 600 people currently obtain Subutex in Estonia. A large part of the drug ends up on the Finnish black market where a tablet bought for 100 kroons (6.40 euros) in Estonia will fetch as much as 770 kroons (49.20 euros).
Health counselor Terhi Hermanson said a part of legally imported Subutex already ends up on the streets of Finland.
She recalled that ahead of the Schengen area's previous enlargement in 2003, legal import of Subutex from France to Finland ended and although health authorities then hoped for an increase in the numbers of people seeking help at rehabilitation centers unlawful import of Subutex grew instead.
In her view, the only way to eliminate the threat of another increase is for Estonia to ban over-the-counter sale of the drug in drugstores.
The issue was discussed at a meeting between Finnish Minister of Health and Social Services Liisa Hyssala and her Estonian counterpart Maret Maripuu in Tallinn at the end of October. Representatives of the Estonian ministry then told BNS that banning the sale of Subutex in retail drugstores altogether and allowing the drug to only be used in institutions providing rehabilitation services was in the plans.
However, this kind of use would have to carefully follow legal safeguards, otherwise the active ingredient of Subutex, buprenorphine, obtained in a medical institution, could begin to be misused.
In the ministry's view, it would not be reasonable to ban the use of buprenorphine altogether as the drug is necessary for the treatment of dependence. Also, no misuse of buprenorphine by Estonian residents has yet been recorded.
Estonia tightened its rules for prescribing buprenorphine in 2004 and 2006 following the Finnish ministry's requests.