Swiss Government Angered by World Health Organization's Delay in Evaluating Heroin Maintenance Trial 3/27/98

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The March 21 issue of the British medical journal Lancet reports that the Swiss government is "irritated" at the World Health Organization (WHO) for delays in evaluating the success of the Swiss heroin maintenance trials. The trials, which have been proclaimed a dramatic success by the Swiss government, began in 1994.

A UNDCP report, released last month in Vienna, stated: "The board is not convinced that the limited positive results claimed can be attributed solely to distribution of heroin itself, as many factors, such as prescribing of other controlled drugs and intensive psycho-social counseling and support, were involved." The report also states that no other maintenance trials should be commenced, anywhere in the world, "until the Swiss project has undergone a full and independent evaluation." Trials are scheduled to begin shortly in both The Netherlands and Germany. Swiss officials have invited UNDCP officials to come to Switzerland to make their own determinations.

The Swiss criticism of the WHO comes on the heels of charges, originally published in New Scientist magazine, that the organization had suppressed a portion of a cannabis report which found that the use of marijuana was less harmful to society that the use of alcohol or tobacco ( The UNDCP's actions come at a time when that body is preparing to present its international strategy to the first-ever UN Special Session on Narcotics in New York in June.


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