Codeine upschedule would have costly consequences: Guild

The Guild has lodged a response to the interim decision by the Advisory Committee for Medicines Scheduling to re-schedule codeine products prescription only, national president George Tambassis has told Guild members.

He says the Guild believes that the proposed rescheduling changes are a blunt instrument to address misuse and abuse of these medicines.

The proposal would not only be ineffective at addressing concerns of abuse, but could also have unintended consequences such as:

  • restricting access to patients with a real, genuine therapeutic need;
  • increase in out of pocket costs for patients;
  • increase costs to the MBS and PBS;
  • increased GP waiting times; and
  • an increase in patients appearing at hospital emergency departments for minor ailments.


In addition, if the proposed changes were implemented, people who reside in regional, rural and remote areas would be most impacted, given the time and cost to visit a GP is substantially greater compared to metropolitan areas, he says.

“Implementation of a mandatory real-time monitoring system in community pharmacy would be more effective and economical to assist in identifying at-risk consumers, facilitate access to education materials and support appropriate referral when required.

“The Guild has developed a prototype of real-time monitoring system specifically designed as a clinical support tool to record and track pharmacy provision of over-the-counter (OTC) products containing codeine.”

The Guild says that in its supplementary submission, lodged this week, it argues that the final decision on changes to scheduling of codeine should be deferred for at least 12 months so that the real-time monitoring system can be implemented and deployed and its impact on detecting abuse and misuse can be analysed and evaluated.

Introduction of this system should be a complemented by a series of additional measures:

  • mandatory warning labels advising consumers of the potential for dependence from prolonged use of these products (greater than 3 days);
  • reduction of pack sizes for these products to a maximum of 3 days’ supply; and
  • ongoing education for pharmacists and consumers.


The final decision of the Advisory Committee is due to be published on 19 November.


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