What you thought about the codeine decision


Poll results reveal overwhelming disagreement regarding the decision, with a small number saying it was a good move

Over-the-counter medicines containing codeine will be upscheduled to prescription-only from 1 February 2018, the TGA announced five days before Christmas.

We asked what you thought about the decision: was it a good decision? A bad one?  What will the impact be on pharmacists, on patients?

Respondents could vote for more than one option.

Our poll results show readers have two main thoughts about the codeine decision:

  1. Alternatives such as MedsASSIST should have been made mandatory – 62% (365 votes); and
  2. It will put more strain on the healthcare system – 62% (364 votes).

This was followed by concerns for patients and also financial ones, with 47% (275 votes) saying “it will negatively affect people with acute pain” and 36% (209 votes) saying “it will negatively affect sales”.

Another 30% said “it’s a bad idea” and 26% (150 votes) believed “it will make our job harder”.

On the other hand, 26% (155 votes) said “it will better help people with addiction issues” and 20% (115 votes) believed “it’s the safest decision to protect people’s health”.

The majority of results reflect the responses of pharmacy organisations after the decision was announced.

A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild told the AJP that the TGA’s decision will disadvantage many people who currently use them appropriately.

“The demand for codeine products will remain, and there is no evidence that making codeine products prescription-only will reduce demand or abuse,” the spokesperson said.

ASMI also expressed disappointment that more targeted measures for codeine-containing medicines currently available OTC were not tried first.

And PSA president Joe Demarte said the decision was a missed opportunity to ensure Quality Use of Medicines.

Overall there was consensus and support among pharmacy organisations and pharmacists for the implementation of a national real-time recording and reporting system.

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4 Comments

  1. David Haworth
    06/01/2017

    A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild told the AJP that the TGA’s decision will disadvantage many people who currently use them appropriately.

    “The demand for codeine products will remain, and there is no evidence that making codeine products prescription-only will reduce demand or abuse,” the spokesperson said”

    The ASMI and Pharmacy owners will be pleased that demand and usage of codeine products will stay the same following this change.

    • Andrew
      06/01/2017

      “…….and there is no evidence that making codeine products prescription-only will reduce demand or abuse,” the spokesperson said”

      Except for all the evidence with other drugs that shows that it does – as in upscheduling being the foundation policy for reducing demand and abuse of such agents. Geez they’re just making up stuff now.

      • Jarrod McMaugh
        10/01/2017

        That’s interesting Andrew – would you mind pointing out this evidence for me?

        Because it seems to me that demand and abuse of schedule 4 and schedule 8 medications exists…. unless I am mistaken?

        The issue is – and always has been – that scheduling is a method for moderating access, but it doesn’t prevent or alter abuse of these agents.

        The only way to do this is with information on a patient’s (or recreational user’s) purchasing patterns. Schedule changes do not achieve this. Whether the schedule changes or not, real time monitoring of the supply of medications with the potential for abuse is required (this includes schedule 4 as well as 8)

      • Simon O'Halloran
        10/01/2017

        As Jarrod has stated, without real time monitoring at the point of prescribing and dispensing the up-scheduling is lazy policy and will not prevent doctor shopping or misappropriation of more potent opioids.

        The problems of licit and illicit prescription opioid abuse (eg. oxycodone et al) without real time monitoring will continue. Not to mention Australia’s lack of support for patients in need (or requesting) rehabilitation or access to pharmacotherapy services.

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