‘Armies’ dependent on codeine

AMA president Dr Michael Gannon has warned of “challenges,” including for emergency departments, dealing with codeine-seeking patients

Dr Gannon spoke with 2GB’s Ben Fordham today following the release of a Productivity Commission report, which showed more than 3,000 patients visit EDs each day for conditions which would have been better managed by a GP.

The report also showed some patients struggle to afford doctor visits and medicines, with 4.1% saying they deferred GP visits due to cost. Three-quarters of Australians were able to get a GP appointment within 24 hours in 2016-7.

The report found a growing demand for GP services.

Mr Fordham asked whether it was likely patients looking for pain relief following the codeine upschedule would also attend emergency departments.

“I think you’re right that we’re potentially going to have some challenges in coming weeks with the changeover,” Dr Gannon said.

“One of the problems we’ve got is that there are armies of people out there, even if they don’t realise it, who are dependent on codeine.

“Now, that’s going to be very difficult for those people in the first few days.

“I would remind your listeners that nothing’s changing in terms of those drugs where you’ve always required a prescription for codeine.

“Nothing’s changing there, it’s just the lower dose codeine preparations now will require a prescription.”

Dr Gannon has previously told reporters that he expects doctors will prescribe less codeine and queried whether it would be approved by the TGA for its current indications, were it invented today.

“What I would expect to see in line with the evidence is not only will doctors prescribing less and less 4mg, 8mg, 15mg tablets, but prescribing less 30mg tablets,” he said last August.

Last week he expressed anger at the announcement of Pain MedsChecks, a trial program to be run through pharmacies.

“Sorry . It’s wrong. Another slap in the face for GPs, the real community health experts. Time to face , shift focus to non-drug solutions. What underlying cause of pain? Is pt depressed? Physio? Relax’n techniqs? Massage? Answer not always in a pill” he said on Twitter.


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