31 January 2018

Codeine over the counter ban starts 1 February 2018

| Tim Benson
Join the conversation
Codeine over the counter ban starts 1 February 2018.

Codeine over the counter ban starts 1 February 2018.

From 1 February 2018, medicines containing codeine will no longer be available over-the-counter and will instead require a prescription from a doctor.

The Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, made the decision last year on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling, which is made up of Chief Pharmacists and Chief Health Officers in States and Territories.

“Over-the-counter codeine products have been estimated to be a factor in nearly 100 deaths each year, with evidence that three in four pain-killer misusers had misused an over-the-counter codeine product in the last 12 months,” Minister Hunt said.

The changes are in-line with the international practice of at least 26 countries that only allow prescription access to codeine based products.

These are: United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, the Maldives, Romania, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Slovakia.

This change will have a large impact on many Canberrans that use medicines containing codeine as part of their pain medication regime.

The RiotACT spoke to local Canberra pharmacist and owner of several Canberra pharmacies, Matt Develin, to gauge the impact of this change.

“We have seen many people that are concerned about these changes. We are proactively helping them with their pain management and shifting them from codeine, to non-codeine based medication. Combination products of paracetamol and ibuprofen are beneficial and work well, however, may not be suitable for everyone in all cases,” Mr Develin said.

He says that there is some concern that the ban may backfire for some people.

“The over-the-counter ban will force some people to shift to other appropriate pain medication but it may also force another group to move to harder drugs including elicit opioids,” Mr Develin said.

“It’s unfortunate that a real-time monitoring system such as the one used to monitor pseudoephedrine sales was not mandated. This would have allowed continued access to codeine-based medications and helped pharmacists identify patients with a potential codeine addiction allowing suitable intervention, support and advice,” he says.

There is also concern about the increased costs for legitimate users of codeine-based medicines.

“I fear that there will be a backlash from customers over the next four to eight weeks as they realise and adapt to the new regulations. I’m also concerned about the additional costs to people, and Medicare, with doctors’ appointments and scripts,” Mr Develin explained.

If you are impacted by this change, Mr Develin recommends you speak to your pharmacist about an alternative over-the-counter medication or see a doctor.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
petunia petal7:29 pm 02 Feb 18

It’s a good decision.

There are hundreds of people who die or are hospitalised each year in Australia from severe gastric bleeding or organ failure as a result of ingesting extremely high numbers of these tablets.

State coroners have been demanding action for a long time.

The national prescribing service says that codeine in less than 30mg (which is what is available OTC) has little additional benefit to taking paracetamol or ibuprofen on their own.

This decision was based on a recommendation from clinical experts who are independent of government. They are medicos not politicians trying to implement a nanny state.

If you’re in pain and paracetamol and ibuprofen isn’t helping – you need to see a doctor for better (and less expensive) prescribed medicines) and management.

If you want to curb alcohol abuse in the community vote for politicians that are willing to tackle the alcohol lobby.

Capital Retro8:31 am 02 Feb 18

Liz Hampton claims a lot of doctors are members of the Liberal Party. I was a Liberal Party member for 30 years and I never met one doctor who was. One high profile doctor unsuccessfully sort pre-selection as a Liberal MP candidate in Queensland. Several past presidents of the AMA have been politically active on the left side of politics.
Most get their income from a tax-payer funded socialist health cover system so why would they want to change that?

Here_and_Now11:29 am 01 Feb 18

Codeine is a potentially addictive and harmful drug, so we must ban it despite it leading to pain and difficulty for chronic pain and other sufferers.

Alcohol is a potentially addictive and harmful drug with a greater reach that isn’t generally used for pain management but has a wider reach. We couldn’t possibly ban it because people quite like it.

It’s a positive step. Chronic pain is complex and sufferers need to be managed given the risk of addiction. If your medical costs get out of hand, there is a threshold beyond which you don’t have to pay.

Here_and_Now11:31 am 01 Feb 18

That threshold will be much higher than when we could get what we needed from the chemist.

It’s going to result in people doctor hopping instead of chemist hopping. People with kidney disease cannot take anti-inflammatories so it’s making their lives harder than it already is.

Blen_Carmichael5:34 pm 31 Jan 18

Just came back from overseas after spending 15 hours straight in economy. Aggravated an old shoulder injury doing so. No worries, I thought, I’ll pop down to the local chemist and get me some Panadeine.

Not surprisingly, they’ve sold out. I could go to the local medical centre I suppose, and sit around for at least two hours. I’m sure when I eventually see a doctor he/she will ensure during the two minute consultation that I have a genuine need for codeine. And look on the bright side, the government is doing more to relieve us of the burden of making decisions for ourselves.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.