Changes to the availability of codeine-containing medicines came into effect from February 1 2018.
President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA), Dr Adam Coltzau, said that while the up-scheduling of codeine has been well publicised, some patients will remain surprised when they can no longer buy their preferred pain medication over the counter.
“I have no doubt that there will be people who were either unaware of the coming change or who did not make plans to change their medication,” Dr Coltzau said.
“Of course, for those patients whose doctor or nurse practitioner recommends codeine-based products, these remain available by prescription.”
“Everyone should be aware that they may consult with their pharmacist where available, or where there is no pharmacist their health clinic team, regarding alternative over-the-counter medications.
“It is imperative that consumers who have previously used over-the-counter codeine to manage pain see their health care provider regarding alternative medications or therapies that are available to them.
“Of course, for those patients whose doctor or nurse practitioner recommends codeine-based products, these remain available to them by prescription.
President of the Australian College for Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM), Associate Professor Ruth Stewart, said that patients should start a conversation with their GP about their pain problems to find a treatment that works.
“There’s no clinical evidence to suggest that over-the-counter codeine products are more effective analgesics than similar medicines without codeine,” Professor Stewart said.
“Talking to your GP about your pain is the best way to address it, as they’re equipped to suggest a pain management strategy based on your symptoms.
“Medication alone is often not the most effective way of treating many conditions, and a multidisciplinary pain management plan will help get the best results.
“In rural and remote areas, where people may have to travel to access their health care provider to review the management of their condition, it is important for consumers to schedule a visit with their GP or other health care provider.
Where pharmaceutical services are available, consumers can take advantage of the Government’s new Pain MedCheck program that will be rolled out across community pharmacies for a one-on-one consultation with your pharmacist.
“Online resources such as www.realrelief.org.au can provide consumers with the facts and information on the proven alternative pain medications that are available.
“There may also be specialist and allied health services available via telehealth for people living in rural and remote communities,” Professor Stewart said.