Controlled Drug Prescribing

The legislation of Controlled Drugs (CDs) in the UK has undergone many changes in recent years in an effort to improve patient and staff safety in relation to CDs. It is essential that a complete audit trail for CDs, from their procurement by pharmacy to administration / supply to patients or their return to pharmacy and/or destruction, is maintained.

Guidance on the regulations, classification and scheduling of CDs can be found here.

Of note is that pregabalin and gabapentin, like midazolam, are now classified as Schedule 3 CDs and as such, come under the regulations governing CDs. Further information is available search in the grey box for 'Gabapentin and Pregabalin- change to CD’ to find Medicines Update blog and memo for acute sites.

More recently, Buprenorphine prolonged-release injection Buvidal® became routinely available in line with national guidance on the treatment of opioid dependence within a framework of medical, social and psychological treatment for use in adults and adolescents aged 16 years or over.

Epidyolex®, Cannabidiol, is now routinely available, under specialist approval for use as adjunctive therapy of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, in conjunction with clobazam, for patients 2 years of age and older. It is classified as a Schedule 5 CD.

Prescription requirements for schedule 2 and schedule 3 CDs

On the discharge prescription the prescriber must ensure the following:

  • Check with pharmacy for local procedure for provision of CD prescriptions. See Appendix 6 for contact details.
  • On the discharge prescription the following details must be included (N.B. if paper prescription used, addressograph adhesive labels are not allowed):
    • The patient's name, CHI number and address.
    • The name, strength of the drug and form (tablets, mixture, vial, patch, etc.).
    • The total quantity of dose units (i.e. number of tablets, unit dose vials, injections, patches or volume (ml) of liquids) in words and figures.
    • The dose to be taken by the patient (good practice point- also include dose frequency).
    • The date of the prescription.
    • The prescriber's signature.


  • Morphine 10mg tablets: take one every four hours if required for breakthrough pain. Please supply 28 (twenty-eight) 10mg tablets.
  • Fentanyl 25microgram/hour patch: apply one patch every 72 hours. Please supply 3 (three) 25microgram patches.
  • Zomorph 10mg capsules: Take one capsule twice daily. Please supply 14 (fourteen) 10mg capsules.
  • Oxycodone 5mg/5ml liquid: Take 5mg four times a day. Please supply 250ml (two hundred and fifty millilitres).
  • Tramadol 50mg capsules: take two capsules four times a day. Supply 56 (fifty-six) 50mg capsules.
  • Temazepam 10mg tablets: take one tablet at night. Supply 7 (seven) 10mg tablets.

Prescribers must clearly state on the prescription the quantity to be supplied of each different formulation. For example:

  • Morphine injection 50mg subcutaneously via a syringe driver over 24 hours. Please supply 10 (ten) morphine 10mg/ml amps and 5 (five) morphine 30mg/ml amps.

The following are available strengths of commonly prescribed CDs which are also included on the GGC Adult Medicines Formulary:

Zomorph®(Morphine MR) capsules 10mg, 30mg, 60mg, 100mg, 200mg

MST® (Morphine MR) tablets 5mg, 15mg

Morphine Immediate Release (IR) tablets 10mg, 20mg, 50mg

Morphine injection 10mg/ml, 15mg/ml, 30mg/ml

Oxypro® (Oxycodone MR) tablets 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 30mg, 40mg, 80mg

Shortec® (Oxycodone immediate release) capsules 5mg, 10mg, 20mg

Oxycodone liquid 5mg/5ml

Matrifen® (Fentanyl transdermal) patches 12, 25, 50, 75, 100micrograms

Diamorphine injection 5mg, 10mg, 30mg, 100mg, 500mg

CD prescribing – lessons learned

A number of incidents have been reported involving confusion between similar sounding names and misinterpretation around standard and modified release (MR) products. DATIX reports show a number of incidents where millilitres and milligrams have been confused in liquid preparations.

For all liquid preparations:

  • Ensure that the strength is clearly stated on the prescription.
  • Prescribe the dose in micrograms, milligrams, or grams, as appropriate, and not as the volume, to avoid misinterpretations if the medicine is available in different strengths.

Common errors occur due to confusion between IR and MR preparations. Oral MR opioid preparations should be prescribed by brand to minimise the risk of confusion and error in dispensing and administration.


Guideline reviewed: October 2022

Page last updated: November 2022