Ensuring access to codeine-containing analgesics is “one of the Guild’s highest priorities,” it says
Pharmacy Guild executive director David Quilty has written in this week’s edition of Forefront that upscheduling codeine products without exception will harm the position of pharmacists.
The Guild understands the rationale for upscheduling these medicines, he says; while it does not agree with all the reasoning behind the decision it understands it is “very difficult” to reverse.
“Instead, we are looking to work constructively with the Federal and State and Territory Governments to maintain direct pharmacy access to these medicines for patients in accordance with strict and auditable protocols only for the temporary relief of acute pain with real time monitoring and referral as necessary to prevent misuse,” he writes.
“The codeine-containing medicines would remain prescription-only but there would be an exception in these clearly defined circumstances.
“The codeine issue is a vital one for the broader pharmacist profession as, without this exception, pharmacists’ role as medicine experts, counsellors and advisers will be undermined.”
The Guild says it is in the interests of patients, the pharmacist profession and the wider health system that community pharmacies lead the effective management of the upscheduling transition for the nearly two million Australians who currently use codeine containing over-the-counter analgesics.
It also warns that there are “very low levels” of consumer awareness about the impending change and says it is working with pharmacies to help communicate the change to patients.
Key messages for pharmacy include “ask your pharmacist about pain management” and “ask your pharmacist about changes to access to medicines containing codeine”.
The Guild says it will also encourage pharmacies to tell patients about the Prescription “except when” model that is being pursued and the role of the MedsASSIST real time recording clinical support tool.
It encouraged pharmacies to keep using the tool to help them identify patients who may have a dependence on codeine-containing products.
Pharmacists need assistance to guide patients through the transition required when codeine becomes prescription-only, says the Guild.
“This guidance comes under the umbrella of community pharmacy based pain management support, and includes advice on alternative pain therapies and management strategies that meet patients’ individual requirements.”