Lab Canada

Montreal component of Canadian heroin study to be conducted by the CHUM

Montreal, QC – The CHUM (Centre hospitalier de l’Universit de Montral), in collaboration with CRAN (Centre de recherche et d’aide pour narcomanes), says it will soon launch the NAOMI project – a Canadian study that will test whether medically prescribed heroin will keep street-heroin users in treatment programs.

NAOMI, the acronym for North American Opiate Medication Initiative, is a randomized clinical trial targeting opiate-dependent users who have not benefited from conventional treatment programs. Directing the project is Dr Martin Schechter, of the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences. Drs Suzanne Brissette and Pierre Lauzon of CHUM and Serge Brochu, PhD, a researcher at the Centre international de criminologie compare at Universit de Montral, are heading the project’s Montreal component.

The entire study will be conducted in three Canadian cities: Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, and will reach 470 subjects. These will be assigned randomly to one of two groups: the first will receive treatment consisting of injectable, pharmaceutical-grade opiates, while the other will receive oral methadone. The study aims to compare treatment retention in the group receiving injectable heroin with that of the group receiving conventional methadone therapy. The study will also enable researchers to measure the impact of these two types of intervention on illicit drug consumption, participation in criminal activity, health status and various other biopsychosocial dimensions of participants’ lives.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is funding this study with a grant totalling $8.1 million, and the trial has been approved by Health Canada. 160 subjects will be enrolled in the Montreal area over the next few weeks following rigorous screening. “Participants must meet eligibility criteria, including a medical assessment,” says Dr Suzanne Brissette, a specialist on drug dependence at CHUM’s Hpital Saint-Luc.

“NAOMI is a carefully controlled medical study that aims to increase our knowledge of mental and addictive disorders,” says Dr Rmi Quirion, scientific director of the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (INMHA) of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “The importance of this research lies in lessening the suffering caused by these disorders and ensuring the trial results are translated into a better quality of life for all Canadians-a key priority for CIHR.”

Once enrolled, all participants will benefit from clinical services provided by physicians, nurses and psychosocial workers. “Treatment will span one year, and will be followed by a transitional three-month period allowing participants to be referred to the best available treatment once their participation in the study ends,” says Dr Brissette. A research team will be responsible for following up participants over a two-year period, to collect data that will enable researchers to measure the impact of the various types of therapy.