Codeine buyers still buying codeine

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Four-fifths of people who have visited a doctor to get a codeine prescription have not been offered an alternative, new data shows

A survey commissioned by AFT Pharmaceuticals looked at how a sample of 200 people are approaching pain management post the 1 February 2018 upschedule of low-dose codeine to Prescription Only.

These individuals had been codeine buyers before the upschedule.

Almost all of those who have been to doctor for codeine prescription are still receiving codeine in some form – 65% the same codeine product as they were taking before; 33% a different or stronger codeine-based drug.

Fewer people have switched to alternatives than anticipated. A significant proportion have gone to their doctor in search of continued codeine (28%) plus others have stockpiled over-the-counter codeine products before the scheduling change (18%).

These individuals will be facing decisions around seeking alternative over-the-counter pain relief or visiting their doctor for codeine on prescription over coming months, AFT suggests.

Long-term pain sufferers were less likely to have switched to a non-codeine drug.

The survey found that:

  • The primary factors for consumers in choosing pain relief are strength and speed (overall efficacy).
  • 18% of those surveyed have stockpiled codeine and will face a decision as to what to do about alternatives in coming months.
  • 28% of patients are going to doctors for codeine. Two thirds of these patients are getting the same codeine pain relief they were taking previously and one third are getting a different or stronger form of codeine for pain relief from their doctor.
  • 80% said that their doctor did not suggest an alternative pain killer that does not contain codeine.
  • While 67% of those surveyed only required pain relief for short term pain like headache and period pain, doctors continue to provide codeine.
  • A combined 54% of those surveyed have sourced an alternative to over-the-counter codeine products, but of concern to pharmacies is that 20% have sourced these from a supermarket.

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