Alberta nurse practitioners (NPs) can now prescribe buprenorphine-naloxone (Suboxone®) to patients to treat an addiction to opioids. Many NPs work with marginalized populations who may have reduced access to services. Additional authorized prescribers will contribute to the implementation of provincial harm-reduction strategies and will provide more access to options for Albertans addicted to narcotics.
CARNA Provincial Council approved the addition of prescribing Suboxone® to the Prescribing Standards for Nurse Practitioners at its meeting on June 19, 2017. NPs must have the knowledge, skills and abilities to prescribe Suboxone®, within the context of the management of opioid use disorder.
CARNA authorized NPs to prescribe controlled drugs and substances (CDS) in 2015. At that time, CARNA approved NPs to prescribe CDS but this authorization did not include prescribing of Suboxone®, methadone, and marihuana for medical purposes.
Suboxone® has a better safety profile, is longer acting and has fewer side effects than methadone. Suboxone® is prescribed as a part of medication assisted therapy to those trying to overcome their addiction. The medication reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings which frequently trigger relapse and ultimately can lead to an overdose.
This is an especially timely addition to NP scope of practice, as Alberta is seeing a sudden and dramatic increase in the number of narcotic-related deaths due to overdose. Although we realize this will not solve the issue entirely, we hope additional availability to treatment will reduce the harm caused by opioid-related overdoses.
CARNA is continuing its policy work to further broaden those controlled drugs and substances which NPs can prescribe. The addition of methadone prescribing for management is expected in the near future.
If you have questions about this addition to NP practice, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-252-9392.