From February 1 next year, all medications containing codeine will require a prescription from your doctor

PRESCRIPTION ONLY NEXT YEAR: Alissa Tambasco at Blooms Pharmacy.
PRESCRIPTION ONLY NEXT YEAR: Alissa Tambasco at Blooms Pharmacy.

IF you take Panadeine Extra, Nurofen Plus or Mersyndol prepare for some big changes, after February 1 next year medicines containing codeine will be available by prescription only.

Alissa Tambasco, pharmacist with Blooms the Chemist, said restricted access isn’t new; in the past 10 years restrictions on codeine have been introduced including making consumers speak with a pharmacist before purchasing and voluntary monitoring, for example, recording sales.

However, under the new laws coming into place next year, she said essentially all products containing codeine will now require a prescription from your doctor. 

Ms Tambasco said the changes coming in aim to deal with either the over use or inappropriate use of codeine.

Codeine is an opioid drug and can cause dependence, addiction, poising and in high dosages, death.

Many Australians become codeine dependent without even realising it. By making codeine prescription only medication it reduces people self medicating and protects others from future harm.

She said pharmacists are advising people against stock piling the medication as often there are more effective ways for people to deal with their pain.

“Sometimes codeine is not the best pain relief,” she said adding for short term pain such as a headache or sports injury pharmacists can advise about suitable over the counter medications that can be just as effective.

“There is evidence of over the counter options that have better pain management properties.

“There are always other options, including non drug options, heat packs, cold packs  tens machines, physiotherapy, non steroidal anti inflammatory ointments to help manage pain.

“A lot of people have found using these options provides better pain relief, with less side effects; we advise people to come and speak with  their pharmacists and see what is available,” she said.

If you need more help, talk to your GP, Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 for information on side effects and safe use, or the Pain Link Helpline on 1300 340 357 for support of people suffering chronic pain.