Access To Codeine Restricted In Australia

by Gopalan on  May 2, 2010 at 2:52 PM Alcohol & Drug Abuse News
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The Australian government has now made it difficult for people to buy painkillers containing codeine over the counter.

A spike in the number of people abusing analgesics containing codeine prompted the National Drugs and Poisons Committee to reschedule the painkillers in October last year.
 Access To Codeine Restricted In Australia
Access To Codeine Restricted In Australia

There have been reports of addicts taking up to 80 Nurofen Plus tablets a day, crushing the opiates and injecting them; people with anxiety and depression, dependent on codeine's euphoric effects; and chronic pain sufferers needing more and more of the drug to get relief.

Excessive intake of codeine could lead to stomach ulcerations and perforations, renal complications, gastric bleeding and in rare cases, death.

Among drugs included in the change are Nurofen Plus, Panadeine and Mersyndol along with those generic brands that also combine codeine with, typically, ibuprofen or paracetamol.

Pain relievers that contain less than 12 milligrams of codeine are now kept behind the pharmacist's counter while previously they were in the shopping aisle.

People seeking these medications must now ask the pharmacist who, ultimately, can decide not to provide them.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says the changes are going to inconvenience the majority of Australians who use the painkillers appropriately.

"Patients who are legitimately and correctly using it, especially when it comes to families or elderly couples, they're going to have to send different members of the family in because a five-day supply for a husband and wife now becomes a two-and-a-half day supply," national president Kos Sclavos said.

"It's a shame that a very small number of patients are going to create such an inconvenience for the majority of patients who use these products appropriately.

"Many consumers may be confused or inconvenienced by the changes, so it is important that they are properly informed that community pharmacies are required by law to comply with the new scheduling requirements."

Mr. Tim Logan, a spokesman for the Pharmacy Guild of Queensland, said the guild had made a submission supporting the introduction of a tracking scheme that would have used existing technology to monitor sales of codeine-based products and offer assistance to people who appeared to be addicted.

"The guild suggested laws similar to those governing the sale of pseudoephedrine be introduced to control the sale of these drugs but it was rejected," he said.

"I believe these new limits will not stop addicts, they'll just make getting the drugs a bit harder. Meanwhile, genuine pain sufferers will be restricted in the amount they can purchase - usually about a week's supply."

The Australian Self Medication Industry, which represents the manufacturers of most over the counter medicines, also says the changes are unnecessary.

"Our position has always been that we thought these measures were overkill," scientific director Deon Schoombie said.

"The decision was based on anecdotal reports of a small minority of people using these products incorrectly, so taking large quantities of combination analgesics which obviously led to quite serious side effects.

"But the vast majority of consumers use these products responsibly and correctly.

"People who use it for sport injuries or for strong pain or for headaches - what it now means is you'll have to go back more regularly to talk to your pharmacist or GP."

Health experts fear the new laws will do little to stop the problems which sparked the change in the first place.

They say the stricter purchasing conditions will not stop addicts who abuse the products, as no real-time recording system - like what is currently in place for pseudoephedrine purchases - will be implemented.

This means people trying to obtain large amounts of codeine can continue hopping from pharmacy to pharmacy to get their fix.

Source: Medindia

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