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New NICE guidance on prescribing controlled drugs

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Prescriptions for controlled drugs Prescriptions for controlled drugs should be carefully monitored

NICE has released guidance on prescribing controlled drugs such as methadone and morphine.

The guidance has been developed to help nurses and other healthcare professionals understand regulations and legislation to administer the appropriate prescriptions. The guidance states that healthcare professionals should prescribe as much of a controlled drug as is clinically necessary, but should not do so for more than 30 days, unless under exceptional circumstances, which should always be recorded. It also recommends that health professionals should provide advice and information to people prescribed medications about how to store and dispose of them safely.

‘Drugs like morphine and methadone are more closely regulated because of the harm that can be caused if they are not managed safely,’ said Dr Tessa Lewis, GP and chair of the guideline development group. ‘A great deal of work has been done recently to help ensure the safe use and management of controlled drugs at a local and national level. However, ongoing activity and vigilance is required to sustain the positive developments that have been achieved since the changes to the structure of the NHS took effect in 2012.’

Controlled drugs carry a significantly higher risk than commonly prescribed ones. A 2013 study found that five commonly used controlled drugs were responsible for 113 incidents (88.4%) leading to serious harm (death and severe harm) with overdose accounting for 89 (69.5%) of the 128 incidents of serious harm.

‘In considering changes to legislation and to the NHS structure as well as relevant patient safety incidents, this guidance provides further clarity and good practice recommendations across most NHS settings and people’s own homes,’ added Ms Lewis. ‘Our aim with this guideline is to support organisations and individuals to minimise the potential harms associated with these medicines by having robust systems and processes in place for their use.’

The guidance can be found at:

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