Free filters a fentanyl disease solution

The fentanyl drug
The fentanyl drug

A flesh-eating disease seen in a injecting fentanyl user might have been prevented with the provision of free filters, say health experts.

Up to 10 fatal fentanyl-related overdoses were reported on the Border in 2011 and last year from users soaking the prescription drug patches in household products before injecting the brew.

Another alarming complication arising from the opioid’s misuse has been injecting injuries due to the patches’ binding agents or impurities from the added substances entering the blood stream.

And while government supplemented sterile syringes and equipment are handed out to drug users on both sides of the Border, neither government funds the filters used to eliminate the impurities.

In Wodonga filters are sold for $2.50 at needle and syringe programs, with many drug users opting to keep their change and face the risks.

In Albury, they aren’t offered at all.

Murrumbidgee Health drug and mental health clinician Alan Fisher said speaking from his experience as a clinician, he couldn’t see why they couldn’t be sold in Albury if they were sold in Wodonga.

“Prevention is a hell of a lot cheaper than cure (and) filters will drastically reduce the chance of bacterial infection,” Mr Fisher said.

He said he had seen about six or seven serious cases of fentanyl-related infections since 2010.

And including injuries caused from injecting other drugs such heroin, ice or other pharmaceuticals, he said he saw three or four cases a month with the costs running into the thousands.

A horror case of fentanyl injecting gone wrong occurred this year when a young mother contracted flesh-eating disease necrotising fasciitis after injecting the drug into her groin, rendering her wheel-chair bound.

Victorian Drug and Alcohol Association chief executive Sam Biondo has called for the Victoria government to provide the filters for free to reduce the chances of such injuries in a cost effective way.

“There should be serious consideration for a means of harm reduction when there’s a known problem and there would be a great benefit to individuals,” Mr Biondo said.