Wimmera Drug Acton Taskforce supports over-the-counter pharmacy codeine ban

THE Wimmera Drug Action Taskforce has welcomed a ban on over-the-counter codeine products, believing it will help people who misuse painkillers get treatment. 

Codeine-based painkillers will only be available on prescription from February 1.

Taskforce co-ordinator Sally Pymer said the group was in favour of anything that would minimise the harm around painkillers.

”Misuse of over-the-counter medications is a problem in the Wimmera community, so any way to minimise the harms would be beneficial,” she said. 

”By needing to see a doctor for prescriptions hopefully those misusing painkillers will be identified and assistance provided. 

“Anyone misusing will hopefully be referred to appropriate services who could assist with other appropriate ways to reduce pain.”

Government medicines regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration announced in 2016 that many popular brands of codeine-based painkillers would be withdrawn from sale.

However, Ms Pymer said the new ban could place pressure on general practitioners in the region, especially given the Wimmera already had a shortage of doctors.

“There is potential the ban could place higher demand on doctors in the region for those already using codeine-based painkillers problematically,” she said.

“However, for those treating short-term pain, there a number of other alternatives available.

“This ban is also a great opportunity for those who suffer from pain to discuss alternatives with their doctor or pharmacist, rather than using codeine-based products." 

The new ban will include painkillers such as Panadeine, Panadeine Extra, Mersyndol, Nurofen Plus, Panafen Plus, Aspalgin, Codis, Dispirin Forte, Codral Original Cold and Flu, Demazin Day and Night Cold and Flu and equivalent generic products.

Advocacy group Painaustralia has encouraged people who rely on medications containing codeine to see their doctor in preparation for the change.

Painaustralia chief executive Carol Bennett said there needed to be better education for people who were dealing with chronic pain.

"We know that reliance on codeine and other opioid-based drugs for treatment of chronic pain is not effective,” she said.

“We also know these drugs are associated with significant unwanted side effects, risk of overuse, dependence and addiction.

“The community needs to be more aware about the dangers of codeine use, and why it is ineffective for chronic pain management.”