NSW Guild lobbies for codeine proposal

(L-R): NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, NSW Branch Director Caroline Argent, NSW Branch President Rick Samimi & NSW National Councillor Mario Barone.

The state branch has been meeting with pollies to push for accessibility to codeine-based products through pharmacy

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has announced it is working on a model that would see certain limited circumstances in which patients could continue accessing codeine-containing medicines directly through community pharmacies without a prescription.

The Guild says it is “actively exploring the best way to bring this about as soon as possible”, noting the Federal, State and Territory regulatory hurdles that will need to be cleared.

Pharmacy representatives have been active in meeting State and Federal Ministers and politicians, as well as stakeholders, to inform them of the ‘Prescription – except when’ proposal, the Guild says, while also highlighting the problems envisaged from 1 February 2018 when medicines containing codeine are upscheduled.

Guild NSW Branch President Rick Samimi has led two meetings with NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard in the past fortnight to brief him on the issues arising from the upcoming scheduling of codeine, he says, and “to outline [the] Guild’s proposal to provide safe accessibility to therapeutically effective codeine-based analgesics to patients requiring these medicines for occasional acute pain conditions”.

“The Minister has acknowledged the potential and difficult issues the upscheduling presents and has stated his preference to continue to work with the Guild and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt in order to explore Guild’s proposal and pathway,” Mr Samimi tells AJP.

He has also met with NSW Labor Shadow Minister for Health Walt Secord over the past week regarding the same topic.

“The Guild’s proposal is based on a regulatory mechanism that would maintain these medicines as ‘Prescription Only’ (Schedule 4 to the Poisons Standard), but would allow strict provision of codeine for the temporary relief of acute pain under a structured arrangement which would include real time recording and monitoring system & continuing education programs for pharmacists,” says Mr Samimi.

“The clinical assist program and training will enable pharmacists to refer at risk patients and/or patients suffering from chronic pain conditions to GPs and pain clinics for further investigation.”

Mr Samimi says the PSA is working with the Guild and is supportive of the initiative.

“Both at National and NSW levels Guild is working closely with the PSA towards a safe practical solution and good outcome for patients.”

Professor Carroll says the NSW Branch believes that low dose codeine-containing analgesics must remain an OTC therapeutic option for the management of acute, short term pain.

“Community pharmacists have the knowledge base and competence to counsel patients regarding the effective and safe use of these products, and the vast majority of patients who use the products do so safely and appropriately for short-term use, and are at no risk of becoming dependent on codeine,” he says.

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