With the codeine upscheduling set for February 2018, it's imperative now, more than ever for consumers to understand the change and how it may impact them, to better learn how to manage their conditions and overall health and wellbeing.
Medicines such as Panadeine Extra and Nurofen Plus will no longer be available over the counter and instead will require a script from a GP before being sold to patients.
Question: What are the upcoming codeine changes?
Stephenie Shea: The Federal Government will be making all medicines containing codeine prescription only, from 1 February 2018. This means these products will no longer be available to purchase over-the-counter at your local pharmacy without a doctor's prescription.
Question: What will the impact of these codeine changes be?
Stephenie Shea: Pain is one of the most common reasons Australians visit a pharmacy. More than half (67%) of Australians aged over 15 years have experienced some form of physical pain in the last four weeks (ABS, 2012). With the codeine changes, patients won't be able to access codeine-containing medicines over-the-counter. That said, there are many other options available that may be suitable for their pain condition. Pharmacists stand ready to help patients select the right product for their condition.
Question: Why has this decision been made specifically in regards to codeine?
Stephenie Shea: The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is responsible for ensuring that therapeutic goods, including medicines, available for supply in Australia are safe and fit for their intended purpose. All medicines are regulated and scheduled based on their level of risk to the person taking them.
After many consultations, the TGA made the decision to up-schedule codeine because there is little evidence that proves low-dose codeine (less than 30mg per tablet) is more effective than alternative medicines without codeine. Prolonged use can cause long-term adverse effects and may also cause an increase in pain sensitivity rather than relief, known as -hyperalgesia'. Therefore, the decision was made to make codeine-containing medicines prescription only.
Question: How can patients be prepared for this change?
Stephenie Shea: It's important to speak to your local pharmacist or GP about the options that are available for managing pain, especially persistent pain. Pharmacists can also help you understand how to better manage your pain using not only medicines, but supportive therapies and nutraceuticals, as studies have shown that medicines alone are not the most effective way to treat persistent pain. Together with your GP, pharmacists can help you to develop a pain management plan unique to your condition, and help you develop self-management strategies so that you can get back to doing the things you want to do.
Question: What advice do you have for those impacted by the upcoming codeine changes?
Stephenie Shea: Pharmacists are a readily available healthcare professionals, who are equipped to discuss with you effective treatments for pain without a prescription.
Question: How can we learn how to manage our conditions, better?
Stephenie Shea: Our pharmacists at Discount Drug Stores are specially trained in persistent pain management to help you navigate the best pathways to manage pain. They understand the impact persistent pain can have on your life and can help you to use your medicines safely and effectively, as well as discussing non-drug strategies which may be suited for you.
Interview by Brooke Hunter