Codeine concerns widespread

Consumers oppose codeine upscheduling, as do a third of GPs, but concerns over pharmacists’ advice raised by survey

Most consumers and pharmacists oppose the upscheduling of codeine, and a third of GPs agree, new research reveals.

A survey conducted by researchers from the University of Tasmania and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre found widespread scepticism that the proposed upscheduling in 2018 would address issues of misuse.

Most of the 354 codeine consumers surveyed (83%) opposed restricting OTC codeine.

Their view was backed by 70% of the 220 pharmacists.

While most of the 120 GPs surveyed disagreed with the other groups, a significant minority (31%) also stated opposition to the upscheduling.

“Consumers, on average, questioned whether the proposed intervention would address the intended targets of minimising codeine-related side effects and risk of associated harm and dependence,” the authors said.

Many pharmacists expressed concern that regular GP visits to obtain codeine would be a time and financial burden, as well as create time issues for GPs. This view was not supported by GPs.

The authors noted that pharmacists reported concerns about their capacity to assist consumers in obtaining pain relief in the absence of OTC codeine.

This suggested “that for some pharmacists there may be a lack of awareness or lack of agreement around alternate OTC products with comparable efficacy.”

The study was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review.

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