Codeine clampdown limits choice

As the war on opioid addiction ramps up, national health authorities have recommended that from next February, medications containing codeine not be sold without a prescription.

Codeine is considered a narcotic and, when taken over an extended period, is addictive, even when used in accordance with a doctor’s instructions.

This month, a consortium of medical and pharmacy groups renewed calls for state health ministers to support the proposal of the authorities.

From 1 February next year , over-the-counter sales of medicines that list codeine as an ingredient, such as Codral and Panadeine Forte, would be banned under the proposal.

The move follows an alarmingly steep rise in overdose deaths related to long-term use of the drug, which metabolises into morphine once inside the body.

Painaustralia Chief Executive Carol Bennett said early this month: “We need to see better responses to pain; over-the-counter codeine is not one of those responses for people experiencing chronic pain.

“Health Ministers have an opportunity to save lives and reduce the growing rate of codeine dependency and harm inAustralia.”

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) also threw its weight behind the move to make codeine a prescription-only drug.

“State governments must not water down codeine safety measures. The evidence is clear. Codeine is dangerous and the current situation is leading to severe negative health outcomes,” RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said.

The authorities said chronic pain sufferers could rest assured that there were effective alternative analgesics that pharmacists could sell without a prescription.

An article in pharmacist industry magazine AJP.com.au reported that the analgesic Nuromol has been proven in trials to be more effective than codeine-based painkillers, but without the associated dependency issues. It is one of several medications that combines paracetamol and ibuprofen.

There are many off-the-shelf painkillers that have formulations of paracetamol and ibuprofen available at pharmacies.

And the good news is that some studies have found this combination to be more effective at relieving pain than medications containing codeine.

However, growing concerns that liver damage can be caused by the overuse of any medication to treat chronic conditions have sparked an interest in drug-free pain treatments.

Therapies, such as meditation, acupuncture, hypnotherapy and tapping therapy, are increasingly being explored by clinical psychologists.

So don’t fret if you need a quick pain fix and don’t have time to visit a GP for a codeine prescription. Speak to your pharmacist about an alternative that will do the trick. Or consider some of the many drug-free therapies available to alleviate your aches.

What drug-free tips have you used to control your pain? Have they worked? Do you agree that over-the-counter codeine medications should be banned?

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Written by Olga Galacho

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