Fingerprint technology to control methadone


By Cara Sulieman

A PHARMACY chain has started using fingerprint technology to make sure that methadone doesn’t get into the wrong hands.

Co-op stores across the country have installed scanners to help them identify patients who are picking up the heroin substitute.

It is being used in pharmacies where there are a large number of methadone users to cut costs and improve security.

Storing the fingerprints for future use, they claim it is an added safeguard to ensure that the potentially dangerous substance isn’t given out to the wrong people.

“Well received”

Janice Perkins, pharmacy superintendant of the Cooperative Pharmacy in Dundee which is already using the scheme, said that the project has been “well-received” by staff and denied that it was a breach of human rights.

She said: “The device produces a personalised algorithm. It is not like a DNA print and cannot and will not be used for any other reason.

“It has also been fully approved and substantiated under the Data Protection Act 1998.

“Even if the police were to impound a system, it is impossible to generate fingerprints from the data stored.”

Roll it out

The information commissioner’s office, which deals with issues surrounding data protection, has sought an assurance that privacy safeguards are put in place and that all staff receive training.

A spokesperson for the Cooperative Pharmacy said that they had the machines in around 30 stores across the country and hoped to roll it out further if successful.

They said: “Dispensing methadone is a dangerous activity – it is possible for someone to make a mistake and be fooled by someone pretending to be someone else.

“It is in around 30 or so pharmacies at the moment and there are plans to roll it out to 70 stores across the country.

“We will keep looking at the situation to see if there is a need to be rolled out any further.

“It will only be put in pharmacies where there are a sufficient number of methadone users to justify using this machine.”

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