A recent article published in The Lancet states that the use of common opioid painkillers such as codeine, morphine and oxycodone more than quadrupled in Australia over the past decade and doubled worldwide over the same period. Along with this increased use have come reports of harmful side effects, dependence and overdose.

In October 2015, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration recommended that all over-the-counter (OTC) medicines containing codeine be rescheduled to become prescription-only medicines, basing their decision on the assessment of issues including risk of dependence and adverse events compared to safer products also available OTC. The Department of Health received 127 public submissions on the recommendation and subsequently deferred its decision on the matter until at least 23 June 2016.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has argued that the implementation of a real-time monitoring (RTM) system in community pharmacies would be a more effective and economical way of identifying at-risk consumers and facilitating access to education materials and support. The Guild has recently begun pilot-testing an RTM system to record pharmacy provision of OTC products containing codeine, involving up to 150 pharmacies in Newcastle and north Queensland.

Source: Australian Drug Foundation. 


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