November 18, 2008

Study: Injection site saves lives, funds

Canada's only supervised injection facility has extended lives of drug users and saved the healthcare system millions of dollars, a study indicates.

When examining the cost-effectiveness of Insite, an injection facility in a Vancouver, British Columbia, neighborhood where about 5,000 injection drug users live, University of Western Ontario researchers said they found the facility saved about $14 million in healthcare costs and added about 920 life-years during a 10-year period.

The study compared costs of operating Insite to savings from reduced needle-sharing, decreased HIV -- the virus that causes AIDS -- and hepatitis C infections and increased referrals for methadone treatment, the university said in a release.

Researchers used computer simulation to estimate the number of HIV and hepatitis C cases that could be prevented through the facility compared to sites using other intervention methods such as needle exchanges.

If the cost-effectiveness of Insite was evaluated using the same standards as are commonly applied to other medical interventions, it would be considered very cost effective, said Greg Zaric, Canada Research Chair in Health Care Management Science at the university. When we also consider the health effects of increased use of safe injection practices, the savings are even greater.