A new Canadian study about supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users concludes that they are cost-effective to the health care system — an argument that is likely to be advanced as several Canadian cities takes steps to open facilities like Vancouver’s long-running Insite.
Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto carried out an analysis that compared the projected costs of maintaining supervised injection sites over a period of 20 years with the potential savings to the health system in averted HIV and hepatitis C infections. The researchers’ estimates were conservative, as they did not include other infections associated with intravenous drug use and the costs involved in treating and hospitalizing patients suffering from overdoses.
Still, despite their conservative approach, the researchers found that one facility in Toronto would incur $33.1 million in direct operating expenses over 20 years, but save $42.7 million in health care costs because of an anticipated reduction in HIV and hepatitis C infections. This represented a net savings of $9.6 million.
The researchers predicted that a single site Toronto would spare 164 people from contracting HIV (because they wouldn’t be using dirty needles) and prevent 459 hepatitis C infections.
An earlier three year study reported Vancouver Coastal Health Authority’s Insite program impact on:
- Appropriate use of health and social services
- Costs for health, social, legal and incarceration associated with injection drug use.
The Centre’s research has been published in peer-reviewed journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, the British Medical Journal, the Canadian Medical Association Journal and The Lancet.
Significant research includes:
- Reduction in overdose mortality after the opening of North America’s first medically supervised safer injecting facility: a retrospective population based study. Published in the Lancet, April 2011. This study found that fatal overdoses within 500 metres of Insite decreased by 35% after the facility opened compared to a decrease of 9% in the rest of Vancouver.
- The Evaluation of Vancouver’s Pilot Medically Supervised Safer Injection Facility – Insite, a 65-page study providing a lay person’s description of the scientific evaluation of Insite, as well as summaries of the research findings related to its impact.
- The Urban Health Research Initiative (UHRI), established in 2007 as a program of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. The UHRI is based on a network of studies that have been developed to help identify and understand the many factors that affect the health of urban populations, with a focus on substance use, infectious diseases, the urban environment and homelessness.
- Visit BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS for specific articles and research about InSite.