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New guidelines for Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT)

May 26, 2021
New OAT guidelines to replace existing ODT guidelines.

ACP’s current guidelines, Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence: Guidelines for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians, were published in 2014. During the last seven years much has changed in the treatment of individuals with opioid use disorder. There have been significant clinical, conceptual, and legislative changes, and the public health impact of opioid-related deaths has grown drastically throughout Alberta, Canada, and worldwide.

The role of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in addressing this public health crisis is more important than ever, and ACP has developed a new document entitled Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) guidelines—Medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder: Guidelines for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. These new guidelines will aid pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to care for these complex patients. Where applicable, the guidelines can be used in conjunction with Providing naloxone as an unscheduled drug: Guidelines for pharmacy teams, which were updated in December 2019.

Summary of changes

One change you will notice with the new guidelines is that they are written from a person-first perspective, using up-to-date terminology. The guidelines have a strong focus on the concepts of harm reduction, stigma minimization, and trauma-informed care.

The new guidelines focus on regulatory and technical guidance for Alberta pharmacy professionals. Up-to-date, relevant clinical information from trusted organizations such as the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM) are provided for pharmacists to refer to for clinical direction.

The information in the document has also been reorganized into clearly labeled sections that are more user friendly when searching for information. The guidance is available as a web-based document for enhanced navigation and usability, though a pdf version is also available for those that prefer that format.

First Steps

The current guidelines remain in effect until July 1, 2021; the new guidelines will come into force and replace them at that time. In the meantime, the new guidelines are available for review, allowing pharmacy teams time to familiarize themselves with the new format and changes that may affect how they provide care to this vulnerable patient population.

Following the July 1, 2021, date when the new guidelines come into effect, ACP will publish additional information to support pharmacists and pharmacy technicians with their implementation and use.