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Codeine over the counter ban starts 1 February 2018

By Tim Benson 31 January 2018 45
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.

What’s Your opinion?


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45 Responses to
Codeine over the counter ban starts 1 February 2018
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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.

Sophia Piccoli 1:50 pm 03 Feb 18

Codine is not a "light" substance its addictive and long term use can cause serious liver damage. It shld be behind counter.

https://drugabuse.com/library/the-effects-of-codeine-use/

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 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 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 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 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 11:18 pm 02 Feb 18

    You are so right. No understanding of addiction.

    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.

    Sophia Piccoli 1:52 pm 03 Feb 18

    There not prohibiting it....just removing from OTC sales

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 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 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.

Peter Buckley 9:00 am 01 Feb 18

Big win for the Pharmaceutical overlords.

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 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 11:13 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 10:19 pm 31 Jan 18

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

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.

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 10:36 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 7:08 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Burne 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 12:33 am 02 Feb 18

    Jessica Burne Plenty of people need pain killing drugs

Wendy Collis 5:25 pm 31 Jan 18

Just a sec

Lesley Jane 5:12 pm 31 Jan 18

You shouldn't need to rush off to the doctors at the first sign of pain. A bit of rest and some pain relief for a few days is often all that's needed. Why make it difficult for the majority of people who use medications correctly and safely?

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