Electronic prescriptions cannot be used for methadone, NHS decides

‘Significant technological development’ must be made before opioid common in addiction treatment can be prescribed 

Credit: Julien Behal/PA

The NHS has decided that the prescription of opiate-replacement treatment methadone should not be conducted through its electronic prescription service (EPS).

The EPS system was first launched in 2007. In recent years, government and the NHS has worked to increase uptake of the system; as of October 2019, a reported seven in ten prescriptions were fulfilled electronically, with the goal being to achieve, as far as possible, total digitisation of the process in GPs and pharmacies across England.

As of May last year, some controlled drugs are covered by EPS. During the coronavirus crisis, NHS Digital examined whether this could be expanded to include FP10MDA prescription for oral methadone treatments – which are commonly used in the treatment of addiction to heroin and other opiates.

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According to Jo Churchill, minister for public health, prevention, and primary care, this exercise did identify ways in which the use of EPS could be even further expanded. But prescribing methadone digitally remains inappropriate for digitisation.

“A recent review by NHS Digital looking at the availability of EPS – in light of the National Health Service’s Covid-19 response – considered that prescribers could not use EPS for FP10MDA prescriptions,” she said. “While this review resulted in work being initiated to accelerate technical developments that will support wider use of EPS, EPS for FP10 MDA is a highly complex area which requires significant technological development both centrally and by system vendors.”

Churchill was answering a written parliamentary question posed by fellow Conservative MP Dan Poulter who, before taking office, worked as a doctor.


Sam Trendall

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