Changes to opioid prescribing regulations coming into effect on 5 October

News article

08 September 2023

Cabinet has approved amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1977 to ensure more appropriate restrictions on the prescribing limits of controlled drugs, such as opioids. These will come into effect on 5 October 2023.

The change reduces the maximum limit for all opioid prescriptions from three months to one month and is the result of a recent review by Manatū Hauora on safe access to opioids.

This review focused on the various controls and safeguards that currently exist to manage opioid access, including regulations that set out prescribing authorities, clinical guidance that sets out appropriate practices, clinical support systems in provider settings, monitoring systems to review potential inappropriate prescribing, and professional sanctions where inappropriate prescribing occurs.

Cabinet has also decided to make several changes to controlled drug prescribing regulations that will simplify prescribing limits and address some inconsistencies in the current regulations.

These changes will apply to both electronic and physical prescriptions which will align prescribing limits for both forms of prescriptions.

While prescribing limits within the regulations are maximum amounts allowed by law, they are not indicative of a recommended length of prescription for specific drugs. Professional standards and guidance set by a health practitioner’s responsible authority (such as the Medical Council), colleges and other professional bodies are more appropriate controls on practice.   

Manatū Hauora engaged the sector on regulation changes in March 2023 and the submissions we received informed the final changes. A summary of this engagement can be found here:

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