As of the 1st of February 2018, all medicines containing codeine will become prescription only. Research has shown that over-the-counter low-dose (<30 mg) medicines that have codeine offer small pain relief treatment when compared to medicines without codeine. Use of codeine can cause opioid tolerance dependence, poisoning and in high doses death. Regular use of codeine for pain relief has resulted in some consumers becoming opioid dependent without realising.
You may see an increased number of patients asking for Codeine for pain relief in your practice. Not every patient will be codeine dependant, however it is important that GPs are able to identify codeine addiction and manage accordingly. In October this year Sydney North Health Network hosted an education evening to support GPs. An additional event is planned for early 2018.
The Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) has created a codeine hub on their website that contains information for clinicians and patients. The hub has a variety of resources from various organisations including factsheets, literature, education resources, and information that provides the background to these changes. This information can be accessed here.
Tips and guidance on how to respond to common specific questions from patients can be found here. Scriptwise, a non-profit organisation dedicated to reducing prescription medication misuse and overdose fatalities in Australia, has created a prescriber treatment toolkit that can be accessed here.
Further information will be provided on the Sydney North Health Network alcohol and other drugs webpage in early 2018.