The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on 20th December 2016 announced that as of 1st February 2018, pharmacological products that contain Codeine will no longer be available over the Counter. Individuals with chronic pain will now be required to go to their General Practioner every time they need to restock on this essential analgesia. The reasons for making Codeine a prescription drug is because the TGA believes Codeine is addictive and has overall negative side effects. As Codeine has opioid qualities it does provide seekers an avenue for abuse. As for the side effects the TGA believes that it can be potentially detrimental to elderly patients which can often result in decreased renal function, increased falls and fractures and medication errors. Other people than can be affected by Codeine include paediatrics, people with liver issues and pregnant women.
The concern for dependency is real however the concern of potential side effects of codeine does not warrant it to be taken off our shelves. Paracetamol for example is a very Hepatotoxic drug when taking in large quantities, therefore those who have had a liver transplant or chronic liver disease are often advised to not take Paracetamol.
As codeine does have dependency qualities it is important that both Government and other health agencies work together to find a solution to avoid people from abusing Codeine, unfortunately this does require time and a lot of work but it’s not worth punishing the majority of people who do the right thing by taking it off our shelves.
As we live in a world where we need to be frugal with our finances, this decision by the TGA will do nothing but harm the patients they want to protect. According to the Department of Health in 2015/16 average patient contribution to their own health costed them $58.49 per service. Approximately 78.2% of services bulk billed. Health costs are already high and given the natural rate of inflation by 2018 one can assume these costs will be even higher. Thanks to the TGA, patients now will need to visit their GP more often just for a script which otherwise could have been sorted over the counter.