Aims: The aim of this paper is to illustrate how Switzerland was able to play such a pioneering role in the field of addiction treatment, in creating a drug policy that includes the medical prescription of diacetylmorphine (heroin). The paper will also describe the role of knowledge brokering processes and coalition building in the different phases of the development of the Swiss drug policy. Discussion: The medical prescription of diacetylmorphine was the exotic element of the Swiss drug policy of 1991 and probably still is one of the most controversial practices in clinical medicine despite its documented effectiveness. Coalitions of change actors, across stakeholder groups from many professions and politicians on various levels, succeeded in formulating and starting initiatives for a new drug policy and its innovations. Clear, shared objectives and a common feeling of urgency brought the coalitions together. Conclusion: In the case of Switzerland, the Confederation took a leading role by facilitating communication, encouraging scientific knowledge and bringing the various stakeholders on a platform to deliver a consensual political policymaking basis. This was facilitated by the Swiss direct democracy system. Sustained dialogue between researchers and the users of research enhances the likelihood of research affecting policy.