Codeine changes coming

READY: Erin Fitzgibbon from Direct Chemist Outlet is set to help people with the upcoming changes to the dispersal of codeine-based medications. Picture: Rob Gunstone

READY: Erin Fitzgibbon from Direct Chemist Outlet is set to help people with the upcoming changes to the dispersal of codeine-based medications. Picture: Rob Gunstone

REGULAR users of codeine-based medication are being urged to make plans to deal with changes to access legislation.

From February 1, medicines containing codeine will no longer be available in pharmacies without a prescription. These include commonly used medications such as Nurofen Plus and Panadeine.

Peter Lee, a pharmacist from Direct Chemist Outlet in Warrnambool, said the changes will have an impact.

“Some people have become more reliant on these medications so it will be a big issue,” Mr Lee said.

“I would be encouraging people to go and see their GP ahead of February 1 and make a plan about how best to deal the change. It certainly shouldn’t be cause for panic, it is all about management and working through the best way to go forward.”

Mr Lee said one by-product of the changes may be a shortage of codeine-based medications.

He said pharmaceutical companies have indicated they would take a cautious approach when supplying pharmacies, given the expected drop in sales given the products can no longer be purchased over the counter without a prescription.

Mr Lee said safeguards were already in place to stop people stockpiling with the medsASSIST monitoring system in operation. This system requires people buying codeine-based medications to produce ID, with this then recorded in a data bank shared by many pharmacies, taking away the possibility of someone buying more than they need.

Mr Lee was among a group of health professionals who took part in a forum that focused on the upcoming changes. The forum was held in November and was run by Western Victoria Primary Health Network.

One of the presenters at the forum was Pene Wood, the opioid management team lead at Western Victoria Primary Health Network.

Ms Wood echoed the thoughts of Mr Lee, calling on people to keep the lines of communications open with their GP.

Ms Wood said the changes could have more of an impact in rural areas than in bigger cities.

“Melbourne and Geelong have pain management services in place for people to access,” Ms Wood said.

“Those services aren’t available in Warrnambool so that is an extra issue we have to deal with.”