Codeine cold and flu drugs upschedule not economically sensible: ASMI

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The interim decision to upschedule codeine-containing cold and flu medicines to Schedule 4 does not make public health or economic sense, the Australian Self Medication Industry says.

It says new figures reveal that upscheduling codeine-containing cold and flu medicines would cost the Australian economy $257 million annually.

Costs borne by government due to increased doctor visits, Medicare and dispensing costs would be $53 million each year and there would be a further $174 million cost due to productivity losses caused by the restricted access, ASMI says.

The balance of costs would be borne by consumers.

ASMI director, Regulatory and Scientific Affairs, Steve Scarff, says “There is no evidence that cold/flu medicines are being misused so it does not make sense to up-schedule them.

“It represents an inappropriate use of regulation and is not proportionate to the level of risk.

“Up-scheduling cold/flu medicines will make it harder for consumers to access these products, delay treatment, increase out-of-pocket costs and result in more time lost from work due to illness.

“It doesn’t make economic sense either as it will increase government healthcare costs at a time governments are searching for cost savings in the health budget.

“No evidence has been put forward of actual or potential misuse of cold and flu products and so the decision to reschedule from Schedule 2 to Schedule 4 cannot have been made with a proper regard to section 52E of the Therapeutic Goods Act.”

He says ASMI is calling on the Delegate to re-examine the interim decision to upschedule codeine-containing cold/flu medicines.

“The current scheduling of these products remains appropriate and there should be no change to the scheduling of them.

“Furthermore, an implementation date of 1 June 2016 is not achievable given long lead times in the supply chain due to the seasonal nature of these medicines,” Scarff says.

“Many manufacturers have already started building cold/flu stock for the 2016 winter season, so a June 2016 transition is not feasible.

“A sufficient transition period is necessary to allow sponsors to source new ingredients, register, manufacture and distribute alternative products,” he says.

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