Codeine up-scheduling backed by professionals

Pain or relief: Changes to over-the-counter codeine laws have divided the community between those wishing to access the pain killers rather than see a GP or go to hospital, and those looking to tackle addiction.
Pain or relief: Changes to over-the-counter codeine laws have divided the community between those wishing to access the pain killers rather than see a GP or go to hospital, and those looking to tackle addiction.

The Rural Doctors Association (RDAA) and Royal Australasian College of Physicians have both backed the Therapeutic Goods Administration's decision to up-schedule over-the-counter codeine products, following a call from the Pharmacy Guild, backed by the NSW Nationals, to reverse the changes.

Earlier in the week Pharmacy Guild NSW President John Heffernan and Deputy Premier John Barilaro backed a campaign which would see the new laws changed to a prescription only, except when system, fearing the prescription only system will only clog up emergency departments and put more strain on country GP’s.

The ‘except when’ system would leave pharmacist able to use their own judgement and the nationwide Medsassist tracking system to sell over the counter codeine products in certain cases, such as acute pain not requiring hospitalisation or further medical intervention.

On Wednesday RDAA President Dr Ewen McPhee called on “the Federal Government to continue to back the TGA's decision, despite pressure from the Pharmacy Guild to make exemptions to the requirement for a prescription.”

“The TGA's decision has very clearly been made in the best interests of patient safety,” Dr McPhee said.

“For rural and remote communities, issues relating to drug addiction have a significant impact on patients and their families.”

Meanwhile local mother of four Mandy Hawkins feels like the majority of people are being treated unfairly because of the actions of a few.

Mrs Hawkins uses Panadeine “maybe once a fortnight” under a recommendation from her GP to treat a chronic shoulder injury.

“It seems quite silly really – something that is going to end up costing us time and money,” Mrs Hawkins said.

“When people are in pain they just want that relief. To get a GP appointment I am generally looking at one to two weeks - so rather than having an easy fix that works for me I will either end up in pain, or waiting for hours in Emergency.”