Expansion of New Zealand ePrescription Service to include controlled drug medicines

News article

02 December 2022

Amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1977 coming into effect on 22 December 2022 will expand New Zealand’s ePrescription Service (NZePS) so that prescribers will be able to use the service to issue signature exempt prescriptions for controlled drug medicines.

The expansion of the NZePS will reduce the administrative burden for prescribers and pharmacists because it was previously a requirement for the prescriber to provide a hard copy, signed version of any prescription for a controlled drug medicine.

The amendments to the regulations will also, in principle, allow prescriptions for Class B controlled drug medicines to cover a period of up to 3 months when the prescription is issued through the NZePS. This will improve access for patients who need these important medicines by reducing the number of prescriber visits required, which is of particular benefit to those in rural areas. There is no change to the requirement that these controlled drugs can only be dispensed at a maximum for an amount sufficient for 1 month’s use. This change will provide more flexibility, although for many of these medicines it may not be appropriate to dispense an amount for 1 month. 

The changes do not remove the requirement for prescribers to operate within the limits of the Pharmaceutical Schedule managed by Pharmac. As a result of the amendments to regulations Pharmac is currently consulting on proposed amendments to the Pharmaceutical Schedule to determine what appropriate controls should be placed on specific Class B controlled drug medicines. Submissions on these proposed amendments are open until 9 December 2022.

The NZePS changes also do not in any way remove the need for prescribers to take a cautious approach toward controlled drug medicines. This includes carefully considering the appropriate duration that a drug should be prescribed for and the appropriate schedule for dispensing. Please be assured that when inappropriate prescribing is identified Manatū Hauora will continue to respond. 

About the NZePS

The NZePS is an electronic health information exchange broker operated by Manatū Hauora. Prescribers send prescriptions to the service through an encrypted and secure channel, and they are then sent on to pharmacies to be dispensed.

The NZePS provides significant benefits for both practitioners and patients, including reduced costs for practices, increased flexibility, fewer delays, and fewer errors.

Electronic medicines management systems have been shown to significantly reduce the number of patients harmed by medication errors and adverse drug events by:

  • eliminating illegible, ambiguous or incomplete prescriptions
  • providing a single and comprehensive view of a patient’s current and historical drug record
  • providing real-time decision support to guide and improve the appropriateness and accuracy of prescribing
  • improving communication of real-time information between prescribers, pharmacists and other health professionals.

The upcoming changes to the NZePS were first announced in August 2022 by Hon Andrew Little, Minister of Health.

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