Discontinued codeine pills limit pain relief options

Thurgoona Family Pharmacist Simon Horsfall
Thurgoona Family Pharmacist Simon Horsfall

Residents are waiting longer, paying more and possibly receiving stronger pain relief than they’re used to, under the government’s new prescription-only codeine scheme. 

A week after the changes came into effect on February 1, Tristar Medical Centre in Wodonga reported a slight increase in people seeking appointments but said it was nothing too extreme, while another practice reported they were very busy. 

Thurgoona Family Pharmacist Simon Horsfall said he believes many people stocked up on popular over-the-counter products before they became prescription-only on February 1. 

“There hasn’t been much of an impact yet, apart from a couple of people who have been a little upset,” he said.

Mr Horsfall said some manufacturers have discontinued low-strength products.

Makers of Panadeine, GlaxoSmithKline Australia, announced they would cease production of the product along with Panafen Plus, Panadeine Rapid Soluble and Panadeine Extra.

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“The vast majority of people don’t have nearly as many options any more,” Mr Horsfall said. 

“I think a lot more people will have to see a doctor for a lot more trivial things.

“Manufacturers stopped producing products about six months ago so there is a very limited supply of low-strength products, mainly high strength.

“I think it’d be confusing to a patient who might be getting something stronger than they are used to.”

Pharmacist Mary Madden of Fifield’s Pharmacy on Dean Street said there had been an increase in people asking pharmacists about alternative pain-relief solutions.

“Pain management is complex,” she said.

“For mild to moderate pain it is going to be more difficult to manage in certain populations and in country areas I think this change will lead to longer waiting times at the doctors’ surgeries.”

Mrs Madden said some customers had experienced a two-fold cost increase because of a pre-February 1 price rise per-pill and the fact doctors might be prescribing packs with more tablets in them.