Keep codeine combos OTC with reporting, says ASMI

white capsules, that resemble OMG Slim capsules

ASMI today supported calls by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia for a national real-time monitoring system for over-the-counter codeine containing analgesics.

Dr Deon Schoombie, ASMI Executive Director, says ASMI’s submission to the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling, which is reviewing the scheduling of OTC codeine containing analgesics, advocates for the retention of the current classification of OTC codeine containing analgesics as a Schedule 3 medicine.

“Each year thousands of consumers, who are in acute pain, responsibly access OTC codeine containing analgesics after consultation with their pharmacist,” he says.

“Up-scheduling these products would result in these people instead having to visit their GP or an emergency department to first gain a prescription.

“The repercussions of such a change would mean new consumer out-of-pocket expenses for GP visits and new burdens on the healthcare system at a time when it’s already straining to cope with demand.”

ASMI shares concerns about potential misuse of OTC codeine containing analgesics but believes that up-scheduling will not address the issue of addiction, says Dr Schoobie.

“In fact, it will shift the problem to the prescription medicines arena.

“What is required is a measured and targeted approach involving doctors, pharmacists and industry to ensure the safe use of these medicines by consumers.”

As these medicines are Pharmacist Only medicines, pharmacists are already required to determine whether it is appropriate to supply OTC analgesics containing codeine, he says.

“They are equipped with the knowledge and skills to provide consumers with education and counselling about appropriate use.

“In addition, ASMI supports the implementation of a national real-time monitoring system for OTC codeine containing analgesics, to help manage the risk of potential misuse.

“Such a system would allow pharmacists to identify consumers who may be at risk and offer early referral to a GP or pain clinic for specialist intervention.

“ASMI’s submission also supports mandatory front of pack warning labels about the risks of codeine addiction.

“There is presently no evidence to suggest that OTC cold and flu medicines containing codeine are being misused.

“These products should be excluded from any rescheduling considerations.”

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