Business and enterprise – guidance

Controlled drug domestic licences for doctors: how to apply

Applying for an individual domestic drugs licence to prescribe cocaine, diamorphine and dipipanone for the treatment of addiction.

Doctors need individual Home Office licences to prescribe cocaine, diamorphine and dipipanone to addicts.

Licences for treatment of addiction

Individual licences: needed from April 2011

Before April 2011 a ‘general licence’ was issued by the Home Office enabling doctors who had been through an approval process to prescribe cocaine, diamorphine and dipipanone without the need for an individual licence.

This is no longer in force and those previously covered by that authority should review their current licensing requirements and apply for an individual licence as soon as practicable where there is a continuing need for one. Evidence of previous ‘approval’ should be enclosed with this application.

Licensing process

Licences are issued to individual doctors and individual premises.

A licence may be issued authorising the prescription of single (eg diamorphine only) or multiple drugs (eg diamorphine and cocaine). Doctors prescribing at multiple premises will need to be in possession of a Home Office licence detailing each individual premise. Licences are not transferrable and a doctor moving to practice at different premises will need to apply for a new licence.

Licences: how to get one

The Home Office will only issue licences to doctors to prescribe drugs for the treatment of addiction following receipt of advice from the Department of Health (England) or equivalent body in Scotland or Wales.

Fill in form MD36. You need to send the form to the relevant Chief Medical Officer (for either England, Scotland or Wales). The address is on the form.

To issue a licence the Home Office needs to receive both a completed MD36 form and appropriate advice from the relevant Chief Medical Officer.

The Home Office that issues the licences to doctors in England and Wales. Scottish ministers have the devolved authority to issue licences to doctors in Scotland.

If you have looked at the MD36 form and still have questions about the approval process, you should go ask the relevant medical officer in the first instance.

Any enquiries from applicants that need Home Office advice will be referred on by the medical officer.

Legislative background:

Doctors, registered with the General Medical Council, can prescribe Controlled Drugs listed in Schedules 2 to 4 inclusive of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations (2001) under their ‘professional competency’ afforded to them in Regulation 7(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, without the need for a Home Office licence.

However, an exception to this rule surrounds the prescription of cocaine, diamorphine and dipipanone for the treatment of addiction. These drugs can only be prescribed under a Home Office licence issued pursuant to the Misuse of Drugs (Supply to Addicts) Regulations 1997.

Handwriting exemptions

Handwriting exemptions are no longer required to exempt doctors from having to handwrite their prescriptions, although they will still have to sign and date prescriptions.