Pharmacy urged to back codeine upschedule

Dr Bastian Seidel.

The RACGP has used International Overdose Awareness Day to tell pharmacy to support the codeine upschedule

August 31 is Overdose Awareness Day, held worldwide to raise awareness of overdose, reduce stigma and remember those who have died or been permanently injured due to overdose.

RACGP president Dr Bastian Seidel encouraged Australians to learn the signs and symptoms of opioid overdose.

He cited recent data which showed more Australians are now dying from pharmaceutical prescription opioids than from heroin overdoses.

“This is why GPs are supporting the Victorian and Australian governments’ moves towards real-time monitoring of controlled drugs including prescription opioids,” Dr Seidel says.

“We are also urging the pharmacy industry to back moves to end over the counter sales of codeine based medications – moves designed to save up to 150 lives a year.

“From February 2018 new national regulations will ensure people will need to see a doctor to be prescribed codeine based analgesics including some cough mixtures with codeine additives.

“With more than one million Australians taking codeine based medications every year, codeine addiction has become a serious problem for our community.”

But a spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild expressed concern that “doctor shopping” can still occur following the upschedule of low-dose codeine.

“The Guild has for many years been at the forefront of advocating for and taking action to introduce tools that enable clinicians to identify and support patients at risk of dependence,” the spokesperson says.

“Doctor groups including the RACGP need to address the absence of any real time recording for medicines containing codeine once they become S4 prescription medicines next year.

“What is the RACGP doing about doctor shopping from 1 February?

“The Pharmacy Guild of Australia will continue to press for a common sense exception to codeine up-scheduling so that patients can continue to access these medicines for the temporary relief of acute pain from their pharmacist in accordance with a strict protocol, which would include the mandatory use of real time recording.”

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