Pharmacy Guild pushes for codeine sale compromise

Pain relief: Pharmacist John Dowling says most people do the right thing with medicines containing codeine. Picture: Cordell Richardson

Pain relief: Pharmacist John Dowling says most people do the right thing with medicines containing codeine. Picture: Cordell Richardson

Overloaded general practitioners and a growing black market for codeine products are among the consequences a pharmacist and lawyer warn could occur as a result of restrictions to codeine product sales.

The Pharmacy Guild is lobbying for pharmacists to be able to sell customers in acute pain small quantities of products containing codeine after restrictions on over-the-counter sales come into effect on February 1 next year.

President of the Tasmanian branch of the Pharmacy Guild John Dowling said the industry had met with the health minister Michael Ferguson over the issue.

“We are still trying to convince the government to allow small quantities to be available for acute uses,” Mr Dowling said.

He said GPs and hospitals were likely to see more patients for short term pain problems such as migraines, toothaches, colds and the flu. Pharmacies already use a voluntary national database to track codeine use.

Mr Ferguson said the state government acknowledged the contribution of the Pharmacy Guild to the Codeine Rescheduling Implementation Group and said pharmacists could “provide effective treatments for acute pain for patients who have previously used a product containing codeine”.

Barrister Greg Barns said the changes to codeine sales were “absurd”.

“This is just complete overkill and it’s overly cautious. All it does is encourage a black market in this product,” he said. “Every time you tighten the market and every time you try and criminalise people’s use of drugs you force them underground.”

Medicines affected include Panadeine, Panadeine Extra and Mersyndol; Nurofen Plus and Panafen Plus; Aspalgin, Codis Disprin Forte; and some cough and cold medicines.

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