In February, the Therapeutic Goods Administration implemented its decision to make codeine-based medications available only to consumers with prescription. Evidence backing the risks and side effects of taking codeine-based medications specifically for pain management pushed United General Practice Australia (UGPA) member organisations and other health industry sectors to affirm Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) decision on codeine rescheduling.
UGPA members, namely the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), the Australian Medical Association (AMA), General Practice Registrars Australia (GPRA), General Practice Supervisors Australia (GPSA), the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM), and the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA), along with other health industry organisations, Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHFA) and Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) have all put in their two cents worth on the change.
United General Practice Australia
United General Practice Australia welcomes the change and believes that the finalization of this regulation is a positive step forward for improved diagnosis and pain management in Australia.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners also a member of UGPA mirrors the organisations concerns about codeine-based medications.
The RACGP stressed that apart from the very little additional pain relief effects compared to medicines without codeine, codeine-based medications are highly addictive, putting the lives of Australians in pain at risk. They added that this move would urge anxious patients to re-evaluate their medication choices for pain relief by having a thorough consultation with their general practitioners.
RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said, “This is a great time for patients to reflect on their health and, if they have any concerns, discuss pain management with their general practitioner.” He also emphasized that the change would bring Australia in line with many other countries around the world, where codeine is available only with prescription.
“Codeine is dangerous and the situation in Australia was leading to severe health outcomes. Over 150 codeine related deaths in Australia every year is completely unacceptable.” he added.
Consumers Health Forum of Australia
The Consumers Health Forum of Australia reflects the same sentiments UGPA. CEO Leanne Wells acknowledged that low dose codeine products are no better and often less effective than other analgesics but have much more harmful side effects. To fill the need to spread awareness about the harmful effects of codeine, and the healthier alternative options for pain management, CHFA launched the “storycard” initiative.
“Sets of six storycards with key messages and relevant illustrations are being distributed through national, state and regional health and community organisations to help people with their pain management and to find alternatives to over-the-counter codeine medications.
“The aim of the storycards is to start a conversation whether between health professionals and consumers, via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or with families and friends.” said CEO Wells.
To access the storycards, please refer to this list:
- How to use the Consumers Health Forum Storycards
- Storycards at A4 size
- Storycards at DL size
- Presentation Slides to inform others of the Storycards
Australian Physiotherapy Association
Understanding the urgency of a large number of Australians to seek alternative ways to manage their pain, National President of the Australian Physiotherapy Association, Phil Calvert highly recommends physiotherapy.
He said, “The good news is that physiotherapy is proven to provide effective pain relief, which treats rather than simply masks the underlying cause of pain.”
“We appreciate that restricting access to codeine may cause anxiety for people who suffer an injury. So we want them to know that physiotherapists help people to manage their pain and recover movement with great success, without the use of addictive drugs.” he added.
Physiotherapy consultation includes:
- Doing physical examination, finding out history and other factors affecting the pain
- Explaining the nature of injury and healing times (acute pain)
- Investing tissue damage and forming a wider treatment team (chronic pain)
- Encouraging patients to remain active and avoid reliance on medication
Pharmacy Guild of Australia and Pharmaceutical Society of Australia
On 25th January the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, in partnership with the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, launched a new trial program called Pain MedsCheck. Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced that the new trial program will be implemented for free through 5700 community pharmacies across Australia to support people suffering from chronic pain for three months or longer.
Pain MedsCheck consultation includes:
- Professional pharmacist face-to-face consultation to review medication and analgesic use
- Develop a written action plan incorporating education and self-management
- Referral to doctors or other experts
- Provision of information about accessing additional support
“This is great for patients, and a significant boost to the capacity of community pharmacies to make a contribution to the management of chronic pain. It is particularly appropriate that this trial program is getting underway at a time when the management of pain is undergoing a significant transformation with low dose analgesics containing codeine becoming prescription only from 1 February.”, The National President of the Pharmacy Guild, George Tambassis, said.
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