GPs criticise Pharmacy Guild on codeine rescheduling

Amanda Lyons

24/10/2017 12:00:00 AM

Prominent GP Dr Evan Ackermann is critical of the Pharmacy Guild’s recent action of sending a letter to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt seeking to maintain over-the-counter access to codeine-based medications.

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Dr Evan Ackermann says the TGA is being 'professionally irresponsible' in trying to maintain over-the-counter access to codeine-based medications.

‘The Pharmacy Guild is deliberately stirring the pot here and I think it’s professionally irresponsible,’ Dr Ackermann, lead author of the RACGP’s Prescribing drugs of dependence in general practice, told newsGP. ‘It’s being very two-faced about this, saying one thing and doing another. It’s really not doing the right thing.’
The Pharmacy Guild says it is not seeking to overturn the TGA’s decision to reschedule codeine to a prescription-only Schedule 4 drug from February 2018. However, one of the main concerns raised in its letter is a potentially disproportionate effect codeine rescheduling could have on rural and remote patients who are less able to access GPs to help manage pain.
This argument has been firmly rejected by RACGP Vice President Dr Edwin Kruys.
‘The letter [seems to imply] that it is preferable to treat chronic conditions by self-medicating with over-the-counter codeine purchased from pharmacies, instead of going to a doctor to get appropriate treatment,’ Dr Kruys wrote in his blog, Doctor’s Bag.
‘This would indicate a lower standard of care for people in rural and regional areas. The up-scheduling decision by the TGA could actually help regional patients receive more appropriate treatment via a doctor and cut out-of-pocket medicine costs.’
The RACGP, together with other healthcare bodies across Australia, is supportive of the TGA’s decision to reschedule codeine, which has been made in light of mounting evidence of harms to the Australian population.
The TGA has provided some online guidance on codeine for health professionals with prescribing authority. The RACGP is working with the TGA to further improve these guidelines, and has developed its own pain management and opioid prescribing guidelines that will be released at the end of November.

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Dr.Nanette Walpole   2/02/2018 6:30:16 PM

Thank you for providing information regarding codeine up-scheduling. It is surprising how many younger/middle aged patients are coming in requesting prescriptions. I am now on alert to look at these patients more carefully regarding psychological issues and social circumstances that may impact on their experience of pain.


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