AMA needs to get real on codeine

Media Release

Date: 6 October 2017

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has rejected the Australian Medical Association’s misrepresentation of the Guild’s position on the upscheduling of medicines containing codeine from 1 February next year.

In a media release today, the AMA has deliberately distorted the Guild’s position on the upscheduling, accusing us of seeking to ‘undermine’ or ‘avoid compliance’ with a Therapeutic Goods Administration decision to upschedule medicines containing codeine to prescription only.

The Guild is not seeking and has never sought to overturn or disregard the TGA decision announced in December 2016. This is simply an overblown claim from the AMA, which does them no credit.

The fact is the TGA decision to upschedule medicines containing codeine from 1 February on its own does little to address the issues of addiction and harm arising from medicines containing codeine.

The upscheduling will increase cost and inconvenience for patients who currently use these over-the-counter medicines safely and appropriately.  Furthermore, the shift to prescription only will do away with the real time recording system MedsASSIST, which the Guild developed and implemented in 2016 to assist pharmacists in identifying patients who might be putting themselves at risk of harm through overuse of these medicines.

The upscheduing will clog up doctors’ surgeries, while offering no solution to the problem of doctor shopping for prescription medicines – the overwhelming cause of codeine-related deaths in Australia. And what does the AMA or any other doctor group propose to do about the prevalence of abuse of prescription medicines? Virtually nothing so far.

We applaud NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro for his support of the Guild’s common sense proposal to allow pharmacists to continue to supply these medicines where appropriate, subject to strict protocols, and with mandatory real time recording. Mr Barilaro made his statement in Harden NSW – a town which recently has been without a general practitioner for up to five days at a time. What are patients with migraine, toothache or period pain meant to do in Harden when there is no doctor within a hundred kilometres for a week at a time? The AMA has no answer.

It is time for the AMA to get real on codeine. Accept that doctor shopping is rife; and acknowledge that patients using codeine medicines safely and appropriately should continue to be able to do so with safeguards and real time recording in place.

Contact: Greg Turnbull
Phone: 0412 910 261

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Page last updated 30 August 2018