Journal of Public Health

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 193–207 | Cite as

Community pharmacy-based opiate substitution treatment and related health services: a study of 508 patients and 111 pharmacies

  • Amanda Laird
  • Carole Hunter
  • Colette Montgomery SardarEmail author
  • Niamh M. Fitzgerald
  • Richard Lowrie
Original Article


Background and aims

Community pharmacies have a central role in the provision of opiate substitution therapy (OST) for drug misusers, offering accessible, additional health services within recovery-oriented systems of care. However, little is known about the patients receiving OST, availability and uptake of related services and associated pharmacy characteristics. We aimed to describe OST in terms of patients, pharmacies and services within the UK’s largest health authority, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Scotland.


Patients completed semi-structured questionnaires and pharmacists provided summary statistics relating to OST provision.


Responses from 508 patients receiving OST from 111 participating pharmacies revealed an established patient population, with 89 % (449/507) aged 30 years or above and 80 % (387/484) attending the same pharmacy for 1 year or more. Methadone was the main form of OST (96 % (487/508), with 97 % (491/504) receiving supervision. Within pharmacies, OST consumption was supervised in one of four main areas: consultation room, dispensing hatch, quiet/private area or over the counter. Location of supervision was considered suitably private by 96 % of patients. Positive staff attitudes, privacy and the provision of additional health services were key factors influencing choice of pharmacy. Additional health services were offered to 75 % of patients and included information provision (43 %), signposting to other health care providers (72 %) and a Scottish service offering free advice and medicines for minor ailments (74 %).


Patients and pharmacists have developed working relationships, enabling access to multiple services associated with health gain and harm reduction. Further development of enhanced services in community pharmacies is merited.


Methadone OST Community pharmacy 



The authors wish to thank Alex Adam, Janine Glen, Susie Heywood, Graeme Morrison and David Thomson for their assistance with data collation, literature review and manuscript development.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Ethical approval and informed consent were not required for this study as it was an evaluation of a current service provided by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (NHS GG&C). Research and Development (R&D) Management Approval was obtained prior to the initiation of the study. The study was undertaken in accordance with the ethical standards of NHS GG&C R&D and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amanda Laird
    • 1
  • Carole Hunter
    • 1
  • Colette Montgomery Sardar
    • 2
    Email author
  • Niamh M. Fitzgerald
    • 3
  • Richard Lowrie
    • 2
  1. 1.NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Addiction Services, Possilpark Health and Care CentreGlasgowScotland
  2. 2.NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Pharmacy & Prescribing Support Unit, West Glasgow Ambulatory Care HospitalGlasgowScotland
  3. 3.Institute for Social Marketing, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol StudiesUniversity of StirlingStirlingScotland

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