Advice to DHBs on prescribing controlled drugs

The Ministry of Health has received inquiries about interpretation of clauses in the Medicines Act 1981, Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and associated Regulations relating to verbal orders for controlled drugs.

Ministry of Health position statement

Verbal orders for controlled drugs are not currently allowed in the legislation. *

The Ministry of Health advises the following alternative ways controlled drugs can be prescribed under current legislation:

  • Anticipatory prescribing - a range of pro re nata (PRN) doses of controlled drugs are prescribed using the medication chart
  • Controlled drugs are prescribed using Standing Orders as per the Medicines (Standing Order) Regulations (2002)
  • Use of approved eMedicines systems where available.

This guidance may be used to support DHBs, health care providers and professional organisations to review and update policies relating to prescribing and administration of controlled drugs.

The only exception is in the case where a prescriber communicates an oral prescription for a controlled drug in an emergency, pursuant to regulation 34 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1977.

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