Patients in pain

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Pharmacy patients are complaining of being “treated like drug addicts” as codeine change awareness spreads, say extended hours pharmacists

With the codeine upscheduling deadline of 1 February looming, the Extended Hours Pharmacies Association (EHPA) is urging its members to invite their local MP to understand consumer distress and to see the effectiveness of the MedsAssist real-time monitoring program. 

“Extended hours pharmacists are at the coalface of this decision and are already seeing patients anxious about the pending change,” said John Maronese, spokesperson for the EHPA.

“We are bracing ourselves. We are going to have to take the brunt of people in pain, such as with a migraine, and we will have to tell them that we can no longer supply the products and that they will have to visit a doctor to get a prescription”. 

At a meeting in the Sydney suburb of Chatswood last week, the group told its members that they needed to be proactive in approaching MPs and educating them on the efficacy of MedsAssist.

Mr Maronese said the NSW branch of the group was calling on the state Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, to regulate to allow pharmacists to give people a limited supply without a prescription to treat their acute short-term pain such as migraine, tooth ache and period pain.

‘We are concerned that many MPs are not aware of the extent of real time monitoring already in place in pharmacies, and that it is in their power to help people in pain,” he said. 

According to EHPA member Peter Feros, director of Cincotta Discount Chemists and Ventura Health, pharmacists are already receiving complaints from consumers who resent “being treated like drug addicts” and object to the cost and time of seeing a doctor when many pharmacists already have real time monitoring of codeine sales in place.

“NSW politicians cannot hide behind the Therapeutic Goods Administration and allow this to happen,” he said.

“We are calling for a common sense alternative to making these products prescription only – mandating RealTime monitoring in all pharmacies and allowing pharmacists to give up to three days’ supply of low dose OTC codeine-containing products to appropriately identified patients,” said Mr Maronese.

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  1. Debbie Rigby

    Yes, couldn’t agree more. Just like OTC codeine doesn’t meet requirements for scheduling S2 or S3, nor does NSAIDs un-scheduled – should only be in pharmacies.

  2. Angus Thompson

    I find it hard to reconcile terms such as ‘Patients anxious about the impending change’ and the reference to patients complaining that they are being ‘treated like drug addicts’ with the inference that the latter is not an issue in their case. A non-addicted person who requests a CACC, who has a professional encounter with a pharmacist, who explores the nature of their pain, provides advice on non-pharmacological options and who explains that a combination (where necessary) of ibuprofen-paracetamol (where appropriate) is a more effective option than a CACC with a sub-therapeutic dose of codeine; has no reason to be anxious. The presence of anxiety about the impending change would suggest to me that the person involved might be the type of person whose experience with codeine is one reason why rescheduling is being implemented.

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