From Thursday, February 1, all medicines containing codeine will become prescription only, including household names such as Panadeine Extra, Nurofen Plus and Mersyndol.
Customers will have to get a prescription from their doctor under the publicly criticised changes decided by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Hunt said codeine is addictive and dangerous and Australia’s over-the-counter ban will match others in the US and UK.
“We know that there are over half a million Australians with some form of codeine addiction,” Hunt told ABC radio on Tuesday. “It would be almost unthinkable for any responsible government to ignore the unanimous advice of medical authorities.”
According to AAP, the minister pointed to a greater availability of paracetamol and ibuprofen combination medications and talked up the nation’s high bulk billing rates when quizzed about the frustration and cost of having to see a doctor for a script. In October, all state health ministers – bar South Australia – wrote to Hunt urging him to rework the codeine reforms.
NSW health minister Brad Hazzard has also warned people may try and get codeine from emergency departments instead.
“The problem with this decision is that GPs might not be available when people are in pain, or they may charge $70 to $80 more (by way of consultation fees) for something people used to be able to get over the counter for less than $10,” he told The Australian on Tuesday.
A prescription is required for codeine products in some other European countries including Austria, Belgium, Germany and Italy, as well as Japan and the United Arab Emirates. Medicine requiring prescription starting on Thursday includes codeine-containing painkillers, such as Panadeine, Nurofen Plus and Mersyndol and codeine-containing cold and flu products, such as Codral and Demazin.
Health and wellness retailer Healthy Life has also reminded Australians about some natural options for pain relief and inflammation that will still be available over the counter at its stores. Healthy Life nutritionist & western herbal medicine practitioner Carmen Alvarado, said there were other options that could help soothe pain without the side effects and risk of addiction that can be associated with the opioid.
“It will take time for Australians to adjust to life without the codeine drugs they’re used to getting over the counter, but for relief from moderate to mild pain, there are several natural health solutions which can help, often with more far reaching results and less side effects,” Alvarado said.