Recent change in federal law results in new Prescribing Methadone practice standard

With the recent elimination of the requirement for physicians to obtain a section 56(1) exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the prescribing of methadone has become less arduous. To ensure that BC physicians continue to prescribe methadone in a safe and effective manner, the College has developed a new practice standard, Prescribing Methadone, which was released on June 4, 2018 following Board approval.

Canada has seen an extensive rise in opioid use and related morbidity, including opioid use disorders (OUD) and mortality. As a result, there is an urgent need to increase availability of and access to treatment options for OUD, including opioid agonist treatment. Health Canada recently conducted a national consultation to assess the utility, advantages, and disadvantages of the requirement to inform future federal policy. The results from the consultation pointed to section 56 as a major barrier in prescribing methadone, and as such, it has now been removed.

As Health Canada now mandates less stringent requirements before a physician can prescribe methadone, the College has worked with experts in the field to create a cogent practice standard for physicians, to ensure that methadone is prescribed safely, which begins with appropriate education and training of prescribers. 

The benefits of requesting feedback from the profession is well recognized, and a consultation on the Prescribing Methadone standard is planned for September 2018. This consultation will help the College assess the new standard’s utility in practice.

Prescribers of methadone can read the new standard here.