Poll: Will codeine be upscheduled?

white capsules, that resemble OMG Slim capsules

It’s the decision pharmacy has been waiting for – and it’s tipped to be made within a matter of weeks

The future of codeine-containing preparations available without prescription from pharmacy has been up in the air for some time, with the TGA still considering the numerous submissions and advice from the March 2016 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling.

In the last week, mainstream media reported that an upscheduling decision was on the cards soon, with one headline declaring, “Goodbye to over-the-counter pain relief”. And at the recent ASMI conference, Health Minister Sussan Ley suggested a final decision would be likely before the end of the year.

This week ASMI restated its support for retaining the current status of OTC codeine-containing preparations, while AJP spoke to leading pharmacist Nick Logan, who said he “hopes the outcome will be based on evidence that shows pharmacists are capable of responsibly managing OTC codeine products”.

MedsASSIST has shown that pharmacists are able to handle codeine-containing medicines in the Pharmacist Only schedule, he says.

Since its national rollout in March, 65% of pharmacies are now taking part in MedsASSIST, with over 3.6 million transactions recorded.

AJP would like to hear your predictions for the future of OTC codeine-containing preparations. Do you think the TGA will opt to keep the status quo—or reschedule these products to prescription-only? Let us know why in comments!

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NOTICE: It can sometimes take awhile for comment submissions to go through, please be patient.


  1. Troy

    The majority of the first petition responders to the TGA’s inquiry was to maintain the status quo. Responsible adults, who have used OTC codeine for years, in Australia, felt that it would be a pecuniary, time and bureaucratic imposition to have access to it removed. The TGA I believe was flummoxed with that response. So they tried again, and asked for second petition.

    Certain institutions (at least one of the pharmacy guilds, but not AMA, which is not a surprise) and many individuals felt that up scaling codeine to S4 was a mis-guided move, if the intention was to preclude access for codeine addicts. And the incidence of codeine addicts in comparison to the number of codeine users is minimal. This does not negate the importance of assisting those who become addicted to codeine; I am sure that codeine users are sympathetic with the plight of codeine addicts who become addicted sometimes by through genuine need but also mis-use. Penalising everyone to catch the few does not address the actual need of the few. This is another case of “social” justice, which is amorphous, ill-conceived and misapplied, which will not deal with the specific problem.

    Taking away the freedom of those who use and need OTC codeine for chronic pain by imposing extra monetary, time and bureaucratic costs (on responsible users) to catch the few who abuse it is not a solution. It is excessive over-reach and tyranny.

    • Toby

      Not that the TGA will care about disadvantaging the public. This decision is all about drumming up more business for the AMA and supermarkets, while gutting the pharmacy-only medicines s2 & s3 categories. This, at a time when the university boffins spruik pharmacy as being ever-more clinical, and yet seem happy with pharmacists not even being qualified enough to sell Panadeine. What a joke. But then again, it’s par for the course for the feeble pharmacy lobby.

      • vixeyv

        I don’t see how a doctor will be any more qualified to prescribe codeine for period pain than a pharmacist. Absolute joke.

    • Ronky

      Every single OTC codeine medicine is approved only for “the TEMPORARY relief of pain”. Any use of them for chronic pain is ipso facto an “off-label” unapproved use. It could certainly not be termed “responsible” to continue using them for weeks (months? years?) without the pain and its aetiology being assessed by a doctor. Certainly someone who has chronic pain should be regularly seeing a doctor.

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