Banning over-the-counter medication containing codeine could cause some people to turn to illegal drugs to curb their pain, Australia’s chief medical officer has admitted.
Professor Brendan Murphy told SBS on Monday he believes the impending ban on products such as Panadeine, Nurofen Plus and Mersyndol as of February 1 will save lives, but agreed it’s a possibility regular users could fill the void with alcohol, nicotine, cannabis or other illegal drugs.
‘People who are already well established narcotic addicts who are using these drugs or misusing them, it’s true that they might seek to find other illegal sources of the drug, but hopefully it will promote some of them to try and seek treatment for their addiction,’ he said.
Australia’s chief medical officer has admitted banning over-the-counter medication containing codeine could cause some people to turn to illegal drugs to curb their pain (pictured)
‘If it’s not easy to get hold of the drug, maybe it will be a wakeup call to them. So I think there is potentially some concern that they could seek other drugs but I don’t think that should be a reason to continue to provide legally and over the counter drugs which are really of no value and causing harm.’
Mr Murphy said about 100 people die every year from codeine toxicity.
‘We’re very confident that it will have a significant benefit. I don’t think it can be accurately quantitated but every life saved is worth it,’ he said.
Between 2007 and 2011, there were 1917 recorded deaths involving either over-the-counter products containing codeine or Oxycodone.
The decrease in accidental overdoses will save taxpayers $5.2billion over the next decade, according to the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
But it is estimated an increase of 8.7million doctor visits will cost taxpayers $316million annually.
Pharmacies are seeing customers stock piling the product in a frenzied panic before the ban is enforced on February 1 (stock image)
Panadeine, Nurofen Plus and Mersyndol are amoung the products (pictured) being hoarded by people who use the drug for pain relief, including for migraines and toothaches
There are more than 5 million over-the-counter sales of Nurofen Plus, Panadeine, Mersyndol and Codral in Australia each year.
With just over a week until the Australia wide ban, people are rushing to get their hands on the product before the ban comes into play.
Australia will join the ranks of at least 26 other countries that currently require a prescription for codeine-containing products.
Codeine is an opioid and is related to heroin and morphine which can be highly addictive and can give users a high if taken in large doses.
Cough medications including Codral and Demazin will also require prescriptions because they contain condeine.
The Dean of the Faculty of Pain Medicine of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anesthetists Dr Chris Hayes told The Daily Mercury that people will still be able to manage pain with over-the-counter medications that don’t contain codeine.
Between 2007 and 2011, there were 1917 recorded deaths involving either over-the-counter products containing codeine or Oxycodone (stock image)
‘When exploring other alternative treatments it’s good to be aware that unlike codeine, paracetamol and ibuprofen are not opioids and not addictive,’ he said.
‘There are many safer and more effective alternatives available that don’t have the harmful side effects of low-dose codeine.’
While the nation-wide ban is to deter people from using the drug for non-pain related reasons, one pharmacist believes it won’t make a difference.
‘There is no way for GPs to monitor someone’s opiate use,’ pharmacist John Jones told The Herald.
‘So you can go and see three different prescribers, get three different prescriptions and present to three different pharmacies and no one has any idea.’
Australia’s codeine ban
- The ban comes into force from February 1, 2018
- People who use the codeine medications will need to visit a doctor before they can get the drug
- Low doses of codeine is found in some painkillers, cough syrups and cold and flu tablets
- Medications with codeine won’t be available over-the-counter without a prescription from a doctor
Panadeine, Nurofen Plus and Mersyndol will require prescriptions
Cough medications including Codral and Demazin will also require prescriptions
WHAT’S NOT BANNED:
Paracetamol and ibuprofen will still be available over-the-counter
WHY OVER-THE-COUNTER CODEINE HAS BEEN BANNED:
Codeine is an opioid and is related to heroin and morphine
This means the medication can be highly addictive and can give consumers a high if taken in large doses
The nation-wide ban is an attempt to reduce drug addiction and overdoses