Consumers confused by codeine crackdown

Consumers have reacted with concern to a news story highlighting the upcoming codeine schedule change

On Friday, News Corp journalist Debbie Schipp reported on the imminent “codeine crackdown” following the TGA’s decision to upschedule low-dose codeine OTCs to prescription only from 1 February 2018.

The article highlights the Pharmacy Guild’s efforts to implement a “prescription – except when” exception for codeine-containing analgesics: the model would see continued non-prescription dispensing under extenuating circumstances such as severe toothache where a dentist’s surgery is not open, after hours or in rural areas without services.

A recent AJP poll showed that 44% of readers supported “prescription – except when” while another 9% support it with some caveats.

The NSW branch of the PSA is still hopeful that these preparations could remain OTC. readers took to the site’s Facebook page to express their concerns about low-dose codeine being upscheduled to S4.

“Why can’t they treat it the way they treat products with pseudoephedrine in them?” wrote Hethah Le Bacón.

“This will end up with more pressure on the hospital system. If I’m caught unprepared for a migraine, I can just make it to the chemist and back home before the vomiting kicks in.

“If I had to go to a doctor, I’d hit that state in their waiting room, and they may end up calling an ambulance anyway because I wouldn’t be able to control light and sound to help the situation.

“If I can rock up to the chemist I’m happy to give my ID and have the purchase recorded on a central database, and that would be a hell of a lot cheaper on the government than the fallout of people who are unable to control their pain long enough to wait for a GP.”

“I don’t know what I’d do in a migraine situation under the new laws except hope I have some left over,” wrote reader Katie Marie. “The lights & noise would get me & I probably shouldn’t drive… And as if it’s easy to get into a Doctor now.”

“Besides the GP’s the only people who agree with this have never experienced or have to live with Chronic pain,” wrote Simone Coulon.

Most of the comments were negative, with several suggesting that the upschedule had been pushed by GPs looking to maximise their earnings.

Others displayed confusion over MedsASSIST, with some readers insisting that the decision-making tool was “mandatory by law” for pharmacies while others said they had never been asked to show ID when purchasing codeine-containing products.

One former pharmacy worker wrote that she had seen an “alarming” number of pharmacy customers misusing the medicines, however.

“I used to see the same people every 3rd day for a 24 pack,” she wrote.

A spokesperson for the Guild told the AJP that “it is clear the looming upscheduling of medicines containing codeine will come as a surprise to many consumers in February, and many will not be happy about the added inconvenience and expense they will face, especially in regional areas where a doctor’s appointment may be harder to obtain at short notice”. 

“The Guild’s codeine exception solution would maintain safe convenient access while putting in place mandatory real time recording to detect and prevent abuse.”

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