ACT opioid maintenance changes

Meegan Fitzharris. Image: Facebook

The ACT’s opioid maintenance guidelines have been strengthened, with take-away dosing limits to be reviewed in 2018

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Meegan Fitzharris has announced the ACT’s existing opioid maintenance treatment guidelines are to be replaced by the national guidelines.

Takeaway dosing limits are to be moved to the purview of the Controlled Medicine Prescribing Standards.

Ms Fitzharris says the change aims to ensure the ACT guidelines reflect clinical best practice, and that there is “robust governance” to ensure health professionals are compliant.

“In August 2017 I asked ACT Health to bring forward the review of the ACT’s opioid maintenance treatment guidelines to be followed by extensive consultation with stakeholders, with a view to adopting the national guidelines,” the Minister says.

“The review and subsequent adoption of the National Guidelines for Medication-Assisted Treatment of Opioid Dependence is one of the ways the ACT Government is strengthening alcohol and other drug policies and services.

“The national guidelines make it clear there needs to be an approach to treatment that combines both medication and psychosocial support for people who are opioid dependent. The guidelines apply to both correctional and community settings.

“They will also enhance the existing safeguards for ACT consumers by providing improved evidence-based information for clinicians.

“The adoption of the national guidelines will align the ACT with other jurisdictions and ensure national consistency of opioid management treatment, without affecting the delivery of local opioid maintenance services or programs.”

The national guidelines will be supported by updated Controlled Medicines Prescribing Standards for clinicians and an ACT-specific document called Opioid Maintenance Treatment in the ACT: Local Policies and Procedures.

“The new Opioid Maintenance Treatment in the ACT: Local Policies and Procedures document will ensure that the adoption of the national guidelines supports the continued delivery of services in the ACT and provides comprehensive ACT-specific information for clinicians and consumers,” Ms Fitzharris says.

“For example, this document provides local procedures for client entry into treatment, including an explanation of their rights and responsibilities.

“The inclusion of unsupervised (take-away) dosing limits in the Controlled Medicine Prescribing Standards also ensures improved governance of take-away dosing, with oversight by the Chief Health Officer and Medicines Advisory Committee.

“These take-away limits effectively retain the current limits, which are based on long held principles determined in close consultation with clinicians and local stakeholders within the alcohol, tobacco and other drug sector.

“The limits will be reviewed in 2018 through the Medicines Advisory Committee and in consultation with stakeholders to ensure they are effective and safe,” Minister Fitzharris said.

The national guidelines were adopted under the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 in February 2018.

The ACT Government will also work closely with stakeholder organisations and partners to refresh governance arrangements, especially given the significant work underway across government to improve and expand alcohol and drug policy and services.

An editorial in the Canberra Times points out that the review of the guidelines was initially slated to begin in 2012.

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