Although codeine-ibuprofen can be considered a relatively weak opioid analgesic, it is nevertheless addictive and more research is needed to develop health care responses to its misuse, according to an article in the Medical Journal of
Dr Matthew Frei, Clinical Head at Southern and Eastern Health Alcohol and Drug Services and Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University, Melbourne, and co-authors investigated morbidity related to the misuse of over-the-counter (OTC) codeine-ibuprofen analgesics between May 2005 and December 2008.
Twenty seven patients with serious morbidity were studied. On average, the patients were taking daily doses of 435-602mg of codeine phosphate and 6800-9400mg ibuprofen.
"In many of these cases, serious morbidity resulted from use initiated for therapeutic reasons, such as easing persisting pain," Dr Frei said.
"Given that these drugs are likely to remain available without prescription in Australia, physicians should ask specifically about non-prescribed analgesics when taking a medication history.
"Pharmacy personnel should consider the risk of misuse when supplying these combination analgesic products.
"The significant morbidity and specific patient characteristics associated with overuse of codeine-ibuprofen analgesics support further awareness, investigation and monitoring of OTC codeine-ibuprofen analgesic use."
The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.