Codeine to become prescription only

Patients will have to see a doctor to obtain scripts for all codeine-containing medications from February 2018, the TGA has announced.

The long-awaited decision is the result of an extensive consultation that saw pressure from pharmacy lobby groups as well as industry.

The drugs regulatory body said that in reaching its final decision it had taken into account “compelling evidence” of the harms caused by overuse and abuse of OTC codeine products, as well as the fact that several other countries had stopped selling codeine products without a prescription.

“The change in scheduling of products containing codeine from OTC (over-the counter Schedule 2/3) medicines to Schedule 4 prescription medicines will mean that people who wish to use painkiller medicines containing codeine will have to obtain a prescription from their GP or health care provider or use an alternative OTC product such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or a combination of these drugs” it said in a statement.

It advises doctors to talk to their patients about appropriate treatment options before the changes come into effect.

But Arthritis Australia say the move to reschedule codeine products will disadvantage people with arthritis and other conditions who need access to the medications to help manage pain.

“The vast majority of people who use codeine products safely and effectively will now face the added inconvenience and cost of needing to visit a doctor for a script,” CEO Ainslie Cahill told the limbic.  

“We are also not convinced that rescheduling will fully address the issue of codeine misuse as people will still be able to doctor shop for scripts.”

Related stories: 

OTC codeine gets a reprieve

Review finds little evidence to support OTC codeine

TGA launches codeine safety review

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