FROM February 1 medicines containing codeine will no longer be available over-the-counter; instead, a doctor's prescription for it will be required.
Pain relief products such as Panadeine, Nurofen Plus, Mersyndol as well as cough relief products such as Codral and Demazin, and any generic pharmacy medications carrying codeine will be off the front shelves and moved into the back of the pharmacy.
As a consequence, there will be more people visiting their doctor for pain prescriptions and a greater demand on GPs to do a better job at managing chronic pain complaints.
Pain Australia's chief executive officer Carol Bennett sees this change in policy by The Therapeutic Goods Administration as advantageous for the one-in-five Australians who regularly suffer chronic pain.
"I think it has highlighted the extent of the problem and that people are desperate to manage pain in whatever way they can," Ms Bennett said.
"At the moment what you are seeing is a lot of inappropriate use of codeine and it's masking underlying conditions. People are taking it because it seems the go-to thing and it's easy to get.
"We know it doesn't address chronic pain and we know it's not effective. There are much more effective medications and other treatments."
Ms Bennett said the next step is for a fully endorsed national plan to consistently manage pain treatment which is one of Australia's most chronic and expensive problems.
With the codeine off the shelves, Ms Bennett expects the community will push hard for that plan to be put in place.
The Federal Government announced at the end of last month an interim trial program called Pain MedChecks, which is being managed by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
The program will facilitate a pharmacist, through face-to-face consultations with patients, reviewing the patients medication and analgesic use and develop a written action plan, incorporating education, self-management and referral to doctors or other experts where additional support is required.
Pain Australia is also offering information on the range of pain management options, which is has listed on the new website www.realrelief.org.au.
"We know people who access pain clinics, 80 per cent of them get effective treatment," Ms Bennett said. There is multi-disciplinary, which is the gold standard - physiotherapy, massage and psychology services. Then there are the medication options. There is a whole raft of treatment options that are useful for pain management."
To find if your pain medication has codeine in it, go to www.nps.org.au/medical-info/medicine-finder?, and enter the search word codeine.
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