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Expert Panel Report on Supervised Injection Site Released

(OTTAWA, April 11, 2008) - Health Minister Tony Clement today released the Final Report of an Expert Advisory Committee summarizing evidence-based research on supervised injection sites (SIS) with special reference to Insite, Vancouver's SIS.

The Expert Advisory Committee (EAC) was created by Health Canada in October 2006 to distil and synthesize existing research on Insite and other SISs around the world for the Minister of Health. Members were selected for their experience in the fields of blood-born diseases, substance abuse, program evaluation, and crime.

A Federal Coordinating Committee created to guide the research posed questions to the EAC concerning Insite's effect on health and public order, its cost effectiveness, factors that might limit SISs in general, and the differences between the drug scene in Vancouver and other Canadian cities. The EAC recommended three studies for funding to Health Canada, reviewed all published (and some unpublished) reports on Insite, and conducted a broad international literature review on supervised injection sites.

The expert committee reached consensus on the following seventeen conclusions:

  1. Over 8,000 people have visited Insite to inject drugs. 18 per cent account for 86 per cent of the visits, and less than 10 per cent used Insite for all injections.
  2. The average user has been injecting for 15 years; 51 per cent inject heroin and 32 per cent, cocaine.
  3. The injections at Insite account for less than 5 per cent of injections in the Downtown Eastside.
  4. Insite provides a clean environment for drug use.
  5. Insite provides nursing services to a large number of users.
  6. The general public has positive views of Insite.
  7. Users rate the service as highly satisfactory.
  8. Insite encourages users to seek counselling and treatment, which has resulted in an increase in treatment engagement.
  9. Insite facilitated vaccination during an outbreak of pneumonia in 2006.
  10. Mathematical modelling shows that Insite saves about one death by drug overdose each year.
  11. The assumptions that researchers make about HIV prevention may not be entirely valid and are therefore inconclusive.
  12. Between 6 weeks before and 12 weeks after Insite opened in 2003, there were reduced numbers of users injecting in public.
  13. There is no evidence of increased loitering, dealing or petty crime in the area around Insite.
  14. Analysis of police data shows no change in the crime rate in the Downtown Eastside.
  15. There is no evidence that SISs influence rates of drug use in the community or increase relapse rates among injection drug users.
  16. Insite costs $3 million per year to operate, or $14 per user visit.
  17. Insite shows a positive cost/benefit ratio (with cautions as to the validity of the mathematical model used).

Please visit Health Canada's Web site to download a copy of the EAC report.

Copies of supplementary reports are available upon request by calling:(613) 957-2983.

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Media Enquiries:

Rita Smith
Office of the Honourable Tony Clement
Federal Minister of Health
(613) 957-4252


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