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Prevent Codeine From Reclassification As A Prescription Only Drug

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Dear Minister Ley and Minister Wyatt,

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has recently announced its intention to reschedule codeine, present in medications such as Nurofen Plus, restricting it to be a prescription-only drug.

This medication is used responsibly and beneficially by millions of people every day, including those with issues such as periodic pain conditions, recurring migraines, and menstrual complications. These are conditions that may not require a long-term management plan, and a trip to the doctor. At the moment, responsible and effective pain management involves a quick trip to the chemist (who is usually informative and helpful when dispensing medication), often showing your driver’s license, and it’s back to work with no hours lost or sick leave taken- this medication works in a way Panadol and Aspirin doesn’t- anyone who has had a migraine can attest to that. You cannot plan a migraine, nor is it practical or helpful to make a doctor’s appointment when you have one.

The proposed rescheduling would simply move more patients into an already overloaded and increasingly costly healthcare system. As you are aware, the availability of bulk-billing doctors is dwindling and the movement of this drug to a prescription-only basis will obstruct the availability of affordable appointments and healthcare for some of our country’s most sick and vulnerable people.

83.7% of codeine related deaths occur from multiple drug toxicity or in instances where alcohol is combined with use. People in this group are also more likely to use multiple illicit drugs; this type of regulation will not stop this pattern of abuse. It will further fuel behaviours like “doctor shopping” (instead of “chemist shopping”) and transfer users onto similarly restricted opioid-based medications like Endone, Oxycodone and in some case, increased illicit drug use.

The key to addressing this issue is to not impose restrictive measures on responsible users, (who are in the millions and are the vast majority) but to encourage further education in regards to mixing medications, imposing warnings on packaging and allowing chemists to dispense at their own discretion. These would mirror the similar restrictions that are currently in place for the dispensation of pseudoephedrine based medications.

Ministers, the undersigned would like you to intervene regarding this decision on behalf of people with genuine medical requirements; and in addition, on behalf of an already overburdened and overwhelmed public healthcare system.

 



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