“It's about giving options to severely addicted heroin users with extreme health problems,” said one of the programme's main advocates, the Social Democratic Party's health expert Carola Reimann.
The new law passed with the help of opposition party votes and in the face of bitter opposition from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), who advocated a pilot project instead despite successful projects having been conducted since 2002.
CDU parliamentarian Jens Spahn accused grand coalition partner the SPD of a “coalition breach.”
The law reclassifies diamorphine as a medicine which can be prescribed to the worst addicts and paid for by statutory health insurers.
"With this no one will simply get their hands on heroin with a prescription," Riemann said, adding that the programme has stringent rules that state a patient must be at least 23-years-old and have been severely addicted for five years or more.
She called the new law the “final chance” for such people.