Codeine over the counter ban starts 1 February 2018

Tim Benson 31 January 2018 40
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.

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40 Responses to Codeine over the counter ban starts 1 February 2018
Sue Skinner Sue Skinner 4:46 pm 03 Feb 18

The same GPs who over prescribe benzos will do the same with codeine. It will be available all the same. GPs are the only ones who will benefit from this decision.

petunia petal petunia petal 7:29 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.

Debbie Chambers Debbie Chambers 2:54 pm 02 Feb 18

Prohibition never works. I see the potential for a new market in illegal codeine with an increased likelihood of it being used for 'fun'.

    Peter Major Peter Major 3:46 pm 02 Feb 18

    This is not prohibition. This is controlling supply and ensuring the best use is made of the medication.

    Debbie Chambers Debbie Chambers 5:22 pm 02 Feb 18

    Such as having to fork out $80 to go to the doctor to get a prescription for pain meds at a higher dose and cost than over the counter. Asking for you to provide ID is control. Creating an environment where you are financially disadvantaged is exploitation. It creates a vacuum where illegal suppliers can move in.

    Peter Major Peter Major 6:10 pm 02 Feb 18

    Find a dr that bulk bills (rare in Canberra) or a Dr that gives you a repeat

    Sue Murray Sue Murray 11:18 pm 02 Feb 18

    You are so right. No understanding of addiction.

    Debbie Chambers Debbie Chambers 10:16 am 03 Feb 18

    Pete that really isn't a good outcome. Sit in a bulk billing surgery for hours for analgesia meds. People would meed to do that before the pain hit. If it is a control issue they could do the same as they do with pseudoephedrine. Present ID for purchase and record it.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:31 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?

Peter Major Peter Major 2:11 pm 01 Feb 18

Get rid of opiates and look at Canabis based medications. No side effects and longer term damage to stomach lining and kidneys

Here_and_Now Here_and_Now 11:29 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.

Aldith Graves Aldith Graves 6:44 am 01 Feb 18

Just wait for the avalanche of opioid medication deaths..much more dangerous than codeine. Products for sure

    Brooke Louise Brooke Louise 12:43 pm 01 Feb 18

    Codeine is an opiate. The reasoning behind the restriction is harm caused by overdose of paracetamol or ibuprofen. Medications available for purchase at supermarkets...

Liz Pugh Liz Pugh 11:11 pm 31 Jan 18

I asked in a chemist in Melbourne today about what codeine type tablets will be available on prescription after Feb 1st Apparently none are being released for 2 to 3 months.

Tim Benson Tim Benson 10:19 pm 31 Jan 18

I asked for something with codeine in Japan and nearly got arrested ...

    Jessica Elusive Jessica Elusive 3:17 pm 01 Feb 18

    Yup japan laws

    Kylie Watson Kylie Watson 9:01 pm 01 Feb 18

    Yep! I had to clear the nurofen plus out of my handbag every time I went to Thailand last year.... Always worried I’d forget!

Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 9:22 pm 31 Jan 18

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_Now Here_and_Now 11:31 am 01 Feb 18

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

Ailsa Turrell Ailsa Turrell 8:12 pm 31 Jan 18

I ave an incurable and very painful auto immune form of arthritis. It is incurable. One Mersyndol at night would help me sleep. Now I won'tbe able to get them.

    Veronika Sain Veronika Sain 10:21 pm 31 Jan 18

    They’ll still be available on script from a doctor I assume. I remember before you couldn’t get them without a script and then they became otc.

Veronika Sain Veronika Sain 7:01 pm 31 Jan 18

My guess is that if you do see a doctor for headache pills you’ll end up with a script for pills much stronger than those you’d buy at the chemist: panadiene forte instead of regular panadiene. I can’t see how that’s a healthier or safer solution for anyone.

And regular paracetamol as an alternative is liver toxic so it’s not a safe drug if taken in too large a dose for pain.

That plus the ridiculously high cost of doctors visits. Did the AMA come up with this?

JuliaLP JuliaLP 6:24 pm 31 Jan 18

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.

Robert McMahon Robert McMahon 5:39 pm 31 Jan 18

This is a blatant action by doctors to force people to see them for basic prescriptions. And the govt fell for it.

    Liz Hampton Liz Hampton 7:04 pm 31 Jan 18

    I’d say a lot of doctors are right wingers. The AMA is full of Lib voters. LNP falls for nothing unless it benefits them

Blen_Carmichael Blen_Carmichael 5:34 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.

Justine Graham Justine Graham 5:26 pm 31 Jan 18

I think it is appalling and is going to put a huge added burden on our already booked out GP's. I really hope GP's are able to give out scripts with unlimited repeats.....

    Arlene Taylor Âû Arlene Taylor Âû 10:15 am 01 Feb 18

    Unfortunately codeine is an S8. In ACT this actually means once someone has been prescribed it for more than a couple of months the opioid monitoring service can tell the GP hey can’t prescribe it any more without the person seeing a pain specialist. There is often a three week wait for pain specialists in Canberra.

    Jessica Elusive Jessica Elusive 3:16 pm 01 Feb 18

    Agree arlene, we need more pain specialists in canberra and a less drug dependent society, also looking at alternatives and pain management etc

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 12:33 am 02 Feb 18

    Jessica Burne Plenty of people need pain killing drugs

Wendy Collis Wendy Collis 5:25 pm 31 Jan 18

Just a sec

Angie Carey Angie Carey 5:12 pm 31 Jan 18

Absolutely ridiculous. Now everyone is going to be on the former script-only panadeine forte because they are not going to pay $80 plus doctors fee to get a script for something they used to buy over the counter. Having a real time purchase network through phramacies which restrict the amout of codeine people are able to purchase in a given time period without a script (which has been partially in force for the past 12 months) is much more sensible and meets more peoples needs.

Angela Thomas Angela Thomas 5:03 pm 31 Jan 18

Another ridiculous nanny state edict from the muppets in charge. Its the usual sledgehammer to crack a nut response - penalising the sensible users for behaviour of the odd addict. What next?

Phil Ebbott Phil Ebbott 4:49 pm 31 Jan 18

I like a nurofen plus every now and then after a rugby game. Now you want me to go to a doctor? Why wasn't it made like the cold and flu medicine thing. I could have handled that.

    Julia Ross Julia Ross 1:24 pm 01 Feb 18

    Some cold and flu medications are on the restricted list too now. You'll only be able to get the useless stuff over the counter now.

    Clare Louise Clare Louise 10:40 am 02 Feb 18

    Julia Ross not true. Pseudoephedrine is still available over the counter with a licence. The formulas have simply been changed to remove the codeine.

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