ScriptWise has launched a new toolkit to help pharmacists prepare for next year’s codeine upscheduling

Pharmacists need to help their patients prepare now – if they’re not already – for codeine to go prescription-only on 1 February 2018, says Clinical Pharmacy Lecturer at La Trobe University, Pene Wood.

Ms Wood, who is also an opioid management clinical advisor at Western Victoria Primary Health Network, is featured in the online toolkit, which is part of ScriptWise’s “Let’s Get Candid about Codeine” campaign aimed at GPs and consumers.

“I’ve been encouraging pharmacists to talk about this as early as possible, to give people a chance to make other arrangements and have a chat with their doctor, before they turn up in February and are told, ‘you can’t have it,’ can’t get to the doctor and are stuck,” Ms Wood told the AJP.

“It’s really best that people are prepared early.”

She warns that for some people, however, “being prepared early” means stockpiling, which pharmacists should discourage.

“Anecdotally I’ve heard people say they’re going to buy it up before it goes on script – and these are not necessarily people who are thinking of doing the wrong thing, but they find it useful and are worried about managing their pain,” Ms Wood says.

“So they want to get their cupboards full. And that’s really not the best action.”

Apart from the QUM perspective, this is also problematic as others may have access to the stockpile, and consumers are not always aware of the need to keep track of expiry dates.

As well as encouraging pharmacies to keep using MedsASSIST in the leadup to the upschedule, Ms Wood called for GPs, consumers and pharmacists to work together to prepare for codeine changes.

“We want to see collaboration with GPs around pain management, or if it’s present, dependence,” she says.

“We’re not saying everyone using codeine, even if they use it a lot, has dependence – it could be poorly or inappropriately managed pain, particularly given in pharmacy we all know pharmacists aren’t supposed to prescribe it for chronic pain.

“So start the conversation now, because these guys generally have some sort of pain condition they want treated – and it doesn’t work if they feel like they’re being judged.

“So as pharmacists we have to come across as wanting to help, not telling people they’re doing the wrong thing.”

According to ScriptWise CEO Bee Mohamed, recent studies have shown more comprehensive education and training is needed for primary care health professionals in relation to the role of opioids in treatment.

“Codeine related deaths more than doubled in Australia between 2000 and 2009,” said Ms Mohamed.

“We want to empower pharmacists, GPs and community members to use the rescheduling of codeine to start a conversation about more effective first-line pain management alternatives to opioid painkillers,” she said.

The online toolkit for pharmacists can be found at: scriptwise.org.au/codeine/pharmacist-toolkit