Monitoring system for medicines containing codeine has reached a significant milestone
More than two million transactions involving OTC medicines containing codeine have been recorded by pharmacists participating in the MedsASSIST program, reports the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
And about 65% of community pharmacies have used MedsASSIST since its national roll out in March, says the organisation.
MedsASSIST is a real-time recording and monitoring system for medicines containing codeine, which was developed by the Pharmacy Guild in response to concerns about patient safety.
It was also created to provide an effective alternative to making them Prescription Only Medicines.
Feedback shows the program is effective and ensures quality use of medicines, says a Guild spokesperson.
“Community pharmacists are taking time to speak to their patients about medicines containing codeine and when identifying those at risk are assisting them with referral options,” they say.
“The strong evidence emerging is that it is not necessary for the Government to re-schedule codeine-containing medicines to Prescription Only.”
At present MedsASSIST requires informed patient consent, but the Guild believes its use should be made mandatory across the country.
“To maximise its effectiveness in reducing harm and to create consistency across the country, the recording of the supply of codeine medicines must be mandated across all states and territories,” says the spokesperson.
“The ultimate success of the program in supporting our case against the upscheduling of these medicines to prescription only lies in its maximum possible uptake by pharmacies across the whole country,” they told the AJP.
The TGA’s long-awaited decision on the scheduling future of currently OTC codeine-containing medicines will be an opportunity for pharmacy – whatever that decision may be, pain expert Joyce McSwan told the PSA16 conference in late July.
“The October interim recommendation on codeine rescheduling was on the back of data revealing significant risks from the use of codeine-containing products for treating pain,” she told the conference.
“But from a pharmacy perspective, any decision that does eventuate should spell opportunity rather than rattle the system.”
“As a profession we need to keep up to date with the latest research in this field,” said McSwan, who is a clinical pharmacist and pain educator based on the Gold Coast.
“I think our profession is not entirely on top of the shift in the usage of codeine. Deaths have increased relating to its use, hence the need for the TGA to respond. It’s a weak analgesic for immediate through acute pain of mild to moderate pain intensity.”
She praised the Guild’s launch of MedsASSIST, calling it a “really an excellent tool” and urging all pharmacies to sign up to it.
However, some AJP readers have pointed out the program is not without its flaws.
“Some of you may have noticed that the program does not link the driver’s licence, passport and/or keypass of an individual. Therefore, if that individual has all three, or more, forms of identification, they can easily access codeine products at three times the rate that is intended,” pharmacist Daniel Roitman wrote on the AJP website.
“Some “problem” customers have already figured out this gap in the system and are attempting to exploit it. Largely, it is in this cohort that we are trying to limit use of codeine products; if this cohort has already identified a loophole then the work of MedsASSIST has been jeopardised,” he wrote.