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Codeine decision misses the mark on Quality Use of Medicines

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December 20, 2016

Pharmacists are disappointed that a decision to make over-the-counter (OTC) codeine medicines prescription-only has not been made in conjunction with a national real-time recording system for drugs of dependence, the peak national body for pharmacists, PSA said today.

Australia’s medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), announced products containing codeine will not be able to be sold over the counter in pharmacies, making these products available by prescription-only from February 1, 2018.

PSA National President Joe Demarte said the TGA scheduling decision was a missed opportunity to ensure Quality Use of Medicines (QUM) in the context of minimising unintended harm for consumers seeking treatment for pain and managing addiction issues.

“While we are concerned with the harm and deaths arising from inappropriate use of codeine-containing medicines, PSA does not believe the decision to make OTC codeine medicines prescription-only on its own provides for a holistic consumer-focussed solution,” Mr Demarte said. “The majority of documented opioid-related harm comes from prescribed medicines so simply requiring a prescription for OTC codeine products will not solve these complex issues for consumers.”

Mr Demarte said: “PSA is committed to supporting pharmacists to provide solutions to consumers seeking relief from pain and managing addiction issues, as part of a partnership approach with consumers and other health professionals.

“Pain management is a complex and subjective matter and pharmacists have a critical role in advising and supporting consumers and carers and working with other health professionals.”

As a result of today’s decision, Mr Demarte said PSA reiterated its strong support for the urgent implementation of a national real-time recording and reporting system to allow for real-time monitoring of prescribing and dispensing of specific high-risk medicines.

“We believe this is an urgent priority issue that requires collaboration and coordination across all jurisdictions – something that PSA has been strongly advocating for in recent years. The decision also appears to ignore coronial reports that have repeatedly called for real-time monitoring of the prescribing and dispensing of drugs of dependence as a key part of the response to this issue.”

Following the decision, Mr Demarte highlighted that pharmacists will be at the forefront of dealing with consumers in the lead-up to this change.

“As the most accessible health professionals in Australia, pharmacists will be working with consumers to identify other pain management options and discussing transition issues with local prescribers,” Mr Demarte said.

PSA urged the Federal Government to work with the peak national body for pharmacists to deliver an effective policy implementation plan for pharmacists and consumers. This plan needs to include strategies to facilitate pharmacists’ discussion of therapy options with consumers.

“We hope the TGA can work closely with PSA and our members on how pharmacists can be supported to provide information and guidance to consumers affected by this decision,” Mr Demarte said.

Read full Position Statements:


Media contact: Brad Watts
Executive Director, Communications
0487 922 176


This item is listed in the following categories: • 2016 media releasesMedia releases


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