Codeine-based painkillers may be restricted in New Zealand

16:02, January 20, 2010      

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Access to painkillers containing codeine may be restricted within months, following concerns about the increasing rates of misuse and addiction.

New Zealand Medicines Classification Committee has recommended that pack sizes of medicines containing the drug be made smaller, and only be sold directly by pharmacists, New Zealand Herald reported on Wednesday.

The medicines regulator, Medsafe, said it was aware of up to 30 painkilling medicines which contain codeine, including the brands Panadeine and Nurofen Plus. Codeine was the base for the illegal manufacture of "homebake" heroin.

These medicines are currently on pharmacy shelves, but the Medicines Classifications Committee wants them available only through direct sale by a pharmacist.

The committee has also recommended pack sizes be limited to a maximum five days' supply and be labelled with a warning that codeine is addictive. Those wanting more than five days' supply would need a doctor's prescription.

Stewart Jessamine, the committee's chairman and the head of Medsafe, said the committee's moves were in line with those in Australia and Britain, and reflected increasing rates of codeine addiction.

New Zealanders spend more than 13 million NZ dollars (9.6 million U.S. dollars) a year on the combined codeine painkillers.

New Zealand Minister of Health is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks on whether to restrict access.

Source: Xinhua
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