Health minister Meegan Fitzharris has finally updated the ACT's opioid treatment guidelines, more than five years after a review of the guidelines was due to begin.
The review of the guidelines, which govern prescribing practices for opiates including methadone, was originally meant to start in September 2012.
Despite intentions to update the guidelines in line with new national guidelines in 2014, a review of the ACT's rules was inexplicably delayed for a further three years by ACT Health, until the delay was reported in August last year.
While Ms Fitzharris said last year she was not briefed about the delay, she ordered a review to start within six weeks of those reports, a process she says was completed this month.
She said the previous guidelines - in place from 2010 to February this year - did not place any consumers on opioid replacement therapy at risk, but said in a statement this week that the safety of such consumers would be "strengthened" under the new rules.
It is understood a draft version of the guidelines, reflecting the 2014 national guidelines, was almost complete late last year, but was delayed a further two months to include further talks with key members of an oversight committee.
"The national guidelines make it clear there needs to be an approach to treatment that combines both medication and psychosocial support for people who are opioid dependent," Ms Fitzharris said.
"They will also enhance the existing safeguards for ACT consumers by providing improved evidence-based information for clinicians.
"The adoption of the national guidelines will align the ACT with other jurisdictions and ensure national consistency of opioid management treatment, without affecting the delivery of local opioid maintenance services or programs."
Ms Fitzharris said the new guidelines would also move unsupervised [takeaway] dosing limits into the ACT's controlled medicine prescribing standards, meaning greater oversight of takeaway methadone practices by the chief health officer and medicines advisory committee.
"These take-away limits effectively retain the current limits, which are based on long held principles determined in close consultation with clinicians and local stakeholders within the alcohol, tobacco and other drug sector," she said.
"The limits will be reviewed in 2018 through the medicines advisory committee and in consultation with stakeholders to ensure they are effective and safe."