“It’s a matter for the states”

competency standards: meeting room

Following the COAG meeting of health ministers, Hunt maintains the states have “full control” over the upschedule implementation

Health Minister Greg Hunt says codeine was raised as a topic of discussion at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Ministers’ meeting held last Friday 3 November.

However he emphasises that while the national framework calls for the upschedule of codeine, it’s “a matter for the states”.

“They have full control over the implementation at state and territory level, so I respect their right to do that,” Minister Hunt said at a doorstop interview on Friday.

“There has been unanimous agreement from the medical professionals on the standards required. That’s been reflected in the national framework, but it is up to each state and territory to implement that under their laws, and they will set out their individual positions.”

The COAG meeting was conducted under a cloud of apprehension as several health groups raised concerns ahead of the event that the codeine upschedule would be overturned or “watered down” by the states.

“We are concerned that some state and territory health ministers may bow to pressure from some pharmacy owners and seek to overturn in their states the decision supported by the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, to make codeine available only after consultation with their GP,” wrote the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia, Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Painaustralia, RACGP, Consumers Health Forum and the Rural Doctors Association of Australia.

“We fear that health ministers may press for this important decision to be watered down in the wake of a campaign suggesting people will be disadvantaged by having to go to the doctor to get a prescription for codeine.”

A spokesperson for the Guild told the AJP the organisation had not been seeking to reverse the TGA decision to upschedule codeine.

“However we have put forward a proposal to the States and Territories, which have responsibility for the drugs and poisons schedules in their jurisdictions, for a confined exception for acute pain only under a strict patient protocol with mandatory real time monitoring,” the spokesperson said.

“At this stage no State or Territory has accepted our codeine exception proposal,” the Guild confirmed on Monday.

Meanwhile funding announced in late October will allow pharmacy and medical organisation to provide education resources in the lead-up to the scheduling change.

The Pharmacy Guild and the PSA will receive $325,000 towards providing pharmacists with materials to assist consumers with the transition.

They have just released their second online module to support pharmacists in the lead up to the scheduling changes.

The AMA, RACGP and RACP in partnership with NPS MedicineWise will receive $250,000 to provide communication material to GPs and specialists.

A further $250,000 will go to rural health organisations to provide targeted communications to health providers in rural and remote communities.

Painaustralia will receive $230,000 to communicate with consumers and people suffering chronic and acute pain.

And $50,000 will go towards the development of targeted communication products and forums for Indigenous health and aged care providers.

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