How a simple visit to a chemist for medicines containing codeine just got a lot harder

Community support: Pharmacist Judy Plunkett is warning the community about plans to have patients get a prescription from their GP for medicines containing codeine.

Community support: Pharmacist Judy Plunkett is warning the community about plans to have patients get a prescription from their GP for medicines containing codeine.

The decision to upschedule medicines containing codeine will see patients required to visit their GP for a prescription or a hospital’s accident and emergency department.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration decision comes into effect on February 1, 2018. 

Pharmacist Judy Plunkett, who is also a member of The Pharmacy Guild NSW, says the decision will cause chaos, choke up GP waiting rooms and put added pressure on hospital outpatient departments.

“This decision will create a huge problem and it will be the people with acute pain who will suffer the most,” she says.

The medicines that will be affected include, paracetamol + codeine 500mg + <15mg which includes Panadeine, Panadeine Extra and Mersyndol; Ibuprofen + codeine 200mg + <15mg which includes Nurofen Plus and Panafen Plus; Aspirin + codeine 300mg + <15mg which includes Aspalgin, Codis Disprin Forte; and cough and cold medicines, which includes Codral Original Cold and Flu, Demazin day and night cold and flu.

These products are currently available over the counter after speaking to a pharmacist, Mrs Plunkett said.

“My pharmacy is open seven days and we treat acute patients every single day of the week. 

“There are more than one million people that use codeine products responsibly.

“Pharmacists are experts at managing this generalised form of pain and the community understands that.”

Mrs Plunkett said pharmacists understand the nuanced treatment systems available to address the level of pain experienced without the patient getting addicted.

The pharmacist said the guild have been proactive in the area of recording codeine product use for some time though a system called MedsASSIST. She said there had been a 70 per cent take up of the system.

This decision will create a huge problem and it will be the people with acute pain who will suffer the most.

Pharmacist Judy Plunkett

It is understood the TGA decision to upschedule the medicines was taken because they can be addictive and are being used inappropriately by some patients with chronic pain.

Mrs Plunkett said The Pharmacy Guild of Australia and its NSW counterpart will tackle the issue on a number of fronts.

“We will be asking the state government to allow pharmacists to use an ‘except when’ situation. This would enable a pharmacist to provide a three day course of pain relief to patients suffering acute pain.

“This would also be in conjunction with 100 per cent mandatory MedsASSIST live recording. We would also have pharmacists undergo additional training in acute pain management,” she said.

“If we cannot get this ‘except when’ clause introduced then we will be asking the state government to push back the February 2018 deadline.”

She also suggested the community should start lobbying their local MP.

Mrs Plunkett said a 100 per cent use of the on-line live recording system would also help monitor any concerns about so-called doctor shopping.

“We can also block the sale of these medicines and send the patient back to their doctor if we see any health issues or over-use,” she added.

The pharmacist said the guild’s push was based around better pain management and providing the best health outcome to the patient.

“It’s using technology and finding a modern world solution to stop people abusing drugs and provide proper monitoring.”