Codeine-containing pain killers become harder to buy from Australia pharmacies

16:05, May 01, 2010      

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In a move to crack down on a small population using the drugs to get high, potent codeine-based pain relievers became harder to buy from this weekend in Australia, the Australian Associated Press reported on Saturday.

Changes to the scheduling of codeine-containing analgesics took effect on May 1, and essentially it means those buying the drugs will have to convince a pharmacist or General Practice (GP) that they need them.

Commenting on the changes, Geraldine Moses warned the move would require some adjustment among the majority of consumers who used the drugs safely in accordance with the directions.

"The vast majority of consumers are legitimate users," said Moses, who is a senior drug information pharmacist at Brisbane's Mater Hospital.

"It's only with time it became recognized there was a small population who abused these drugs ... those naughty people who want to use these drugs to try to get high.

"And giving themselves dreadful side-effects from the ingredients that are carried along with the codeine."

Pain relievers which contain less than 12 milligrams of codeine are now kept behind the pharmacist's counter while previously they were offered for general sale in the shopping aisle.

People seeking these medications must now ask the pharmacist who, ultimately, can decide not to provide them.

Drugs with more than 12 milligrams of codeine, previously kept behind the counter, were now only available with a prescription.

Further restrictions were also imposed to reduce the bulk purchase of codeine-containing pills.

Nurofen Plus, for example, has now been available behind the counter in packs of up to 30 tablets but only a GP can prescribe packs of up to 72 tablets.

Moses said people wanting to buy the pain relievers at a pharmacy should go outside of busy times and consider booking ahead, to ensure they could speak to the pharmacist.

"It certainly will have a big impact on a pharmacist's work schedule because they are very commonly used medicines," Moses said.

"You can't buy any codeine-containing pain reliever from the shop assistant from May 1."

Moses said the changes would cut down on abuse, but also ensure those people who used the drugs to manage chronic pain were in more regular contact with their GP.

Among drugs included in the change were Nurofen Plus, Panadeine and Mersyndol along with those generic brands which also combine codeine with ibuprofen or paracetamol.

Using codeine-containing drugs in excessive amounts can lead to addiction and problems, including stomach ulcers or liver damage.

The National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee has formulated the changes during meetings in June and October last year.

Source: Xinhua


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