Pain group takes aim at Pain MedsChecks

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Another stakeholder has alleged that pharmacists are responsible for the increased price of low-dose codeine – and taken aim at Pain MedsChecks

Chronic Pain Australia, which represents people living with chronic pain, says that it is “disappointed about recent reports of pharmacies across Australia increasing the price of codeine-based medications since the 1 February up-scheduling”.

The organisation’s national president, Dr Coralie Wales, made the statement following the decision of the Health Minister, Greg Hunt, to instruct the ACCC to investigate the increase in price.

“Reports that pharmacies are increasing the price of codeine medication is of great concern and discriminates against people living with chronic pain,” Dr Wales says.

“It adds to their burden and financial pressure. Now they must see their GP for codeine-based medication, something they didn’t have to do last month.

“For many people this involves a gap payment as well as potential wait time in accessing their GP, especially in rural and remote areas.”

Dr Wales said that Chronic Pain Australia supports Minister Hunt’s intervention and instruction to the ACCC to investigate.

She also took exception with the way some pharmacy groups are advertising the taxpayer-funded Pain Management Plans available in pharmacy.

“This week I have been sent advertising from a large pharmacy chain telling me that ‘in ten minutes’ they would be able to put me on a new pain management plan which is heavily medication based,” she said.

“There is no mention of a multidisciplinary and person-centred pain management approach, which many people in pain know to be effective. It is notable that these pharmacy based plans tend to rely on medication.

“Frankly to think anyone living with complex pain can, in ten minutes, transfer to a new pain management regime, not created in partnership with a person’s GP or pain management specialist is somewhat naïve.

“When $20 million for the Pains Medscheck program was announced many of our members were sceptical that this would be of any real use to them for the ongoing treatment of their complex chronic pain.”

She told people who live with chronic pain to “think twice about advice from any pharmacist who asserts that they can create a pain management plan for you in ten minutes, particularly if this plan introduces new medications and does not take a wholistic approach to your health and wellness.

“If you need to review your medication you are better going to see your GP,” said Dr Wales. 

Dr Wales said that Chronic Pain Australia remains open to working with all health and pharmacy organisations to ensure that taxpayer funds purporting to assist people living with chronic pain are spent wisely.

The statement follows yesterday’s comments from PainAustralia CEO Carol Bennett on the subject of codeine pricing.

“At a time when codeine is less available, industry and pharmacists are reportedly putting the price up. If true, this is unacceptable from government supported health providers,” she said.

Guild NSW president David Heffernan told the AJP that pharmacists are under pressure from patients upset about the price rise.

He went on 2GB to urge the public not to “shoot the messenger” as the cost to pharmacies of the drugs from wholesalers had increased sharply.

He also pointed out that low-dose codeine is not suitable for the treatment of chronic pain.

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