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City passes on ‘unproven’ drug treatment program

Federal Way will not proceed in administering the Prometa drug treatment protocol due to insufficient proof of its ability to rid drug and alcohol addicts of their desire for substances.

On April 15, the Federal Way City Council chose not to use the $20,000 earmarked during the mid-biennium budget process for the drug treatment. Staff was unable to gather enough convincing evidence of Prometa’s effectiveness for it to feel comfortable recommending the city council proceed in a pilot program.

“This is premature and I suggest the city step back from this until it’s proven effective,” said Lynnette Hynden, Federal Way human resources manager, at an April 8 Parks, Recreation, Human Services and Public Safety committee meeting.

Prometa is a combination of three medications — Flumazenil, Hydroxyzine and Gabapentin — independently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Prometa is thought by some in the medical field to relieve alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine addicts of their cravings for the drugs. The treatment came to the attention of Federal Way City Council member Jack Dovey, and he requested the city set aside the money to pursue the treatment late 2007.

“Anything we can do to help our citizens kick the crack (cocaine) habit is vitally important to me,” Dovey said.

About the same time, Prometa came under scrutiny when Pierce County auditors found spotty data and testing were used to promote the medication mixture, which was then administered by Pierce County Alliance, a social services group.

Federal Way staff performed its own research and was also concerned about the treatment. Staff was able to gather only a small amount of scientific data in support of Prometa.

A double-blind placebo test, in which one control group receives the treatment and the other does not, with neither knowing which group is being administered the protocol, was never performed, according to a March 12 memorandum written by Hynden. First-hand testimonies were not enough to allow staff to predict what the treatment’s long-term effects may be, according to the same memo.

Even if Prometa were proven effective, $20,000 is not enough to serve the number of Federal Way residents that could benefit from the program, council member Mike Park said at the April 8 meeting.

Dovey said he still feels the treatment program is needed in Federal Way, and the city council may choose to pursue Prometa in the future. He has seen the positive effects it had on one of his employees, a former methamphetamine addict, and had hoped the Human Services Commission would recommend the protocol be administered in Federal Way.

“I’m disappointed, but we’ll have to get some more data and more statistics and see if we can make it happen next time,” Dovey said.

The city council does not have plans, that Dovey knows of, to dedicate funding to any other type of drug treatment program, he said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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