Home > Consensus recommendations for opioid agonist treatment following the introduction of emergency clinical guidelines in Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic: a national Delphi study.

Durand, Louise and Keenan, Eamon and Boland, Fiona and Harnedy, Norma and Delargy, Ide and Scully, Mike and Mayock, Paula and Ebbitt, William and Otero Vázquez, Maria and Corrigan, Nicola and Killeen, Nicki and Pate, Muriel and Byrne, Paula and Cousins, Grainne (2022) Consensus recommendations for opioid agonist treatment following the introduction of emergency clinical guidelines in Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic: a national Delphi study. International Journal of Drug Policy, Early online, 103768. (In Press) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2022.103768.

External website: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/...


Background: Emergency contingency guidelines for opioid agonist treatment (OAT) were introduced in Ireland in March 2020, to ensure rapid and uninterrupted access to treatment while mitigating COVID-19 risk. The contingency guidelines deviated, across multiple clinical domains, from pre-pandemic clinical guidelines published in 2016. The objectives of this study are to (1) identify changes introduced to OAT clinical guidelines in Ireland during the pandemic; and (2) develop consensus on whether the new recommendations should be retained beyond the pandemic, using a national Delphi consensus methodology.

Methods: Clinical guidance recommendations (‘statements’) were generated by comparing the newly established contingency guidelines with the national 2016 Clinical Guidelines for OAT. Over two rounds of on-line Delphi testing, a panel of experts (people currently accessing OAT, psychiatrists, general practitioners, community pharmacists, a nurse, a psychologist and support/key workers) independently rated their agreement with each statement and provided comments. Statements with a median score of 4 or 5 and a lower quartile of ≥4 were classified as having reached consensus.

Results: Forty-eight panel members were recruited, with a high participation level at Round 2 (90%, n=43). Consensus was achieved for 12 of the 19 statements at Round 1. The 7 remaining statements were revised, with 2 new statements, resulting in 9 statements at Round 2. Four statements reached consensus at Round 2. The final list includes 16 clinical guidance statements; 9 relating to assessment, 3 to OAT drug choice and dosing, 1 to take-away doses, 2 to overdose prevention and 1 to the continuation of e-prescriptions.

Conclusions: A wide range of stakeholders involved in the delivery and receipt of OAT agreed on 16 clinical guidance statements for inclusion in OAT clinical guidelines as we move beyond the pandemic, rather than reverting to pre-pandemic guidelines. The agreed statements relate to facilitating safe access to OAT with minimal waiting time, supporting patient-centred care to promote health and well-being, and preventing drug overdose. Notably, consensus was not achieved for OAT drug dosage and frequency of urine testing during the stabilisation and maintenance phase of care.

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