Why buying flu tablets and painkillers could soon be much harder...

They’re a must-have in any medicine cabinet but soon it may not be as easy as it has been to buy cold and flu tablets over the counter, and it’s due to one crucial ingredient.

In news this morning, the Federal Government’s medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), has revealed they have been considering whether to reclassify drugs that contain codeine because of the risk of harm, addiction or overdose, reports the ABC.

This includes not just cold and flu tablets but cough suppressants, and codeine-based painkillers such as Nurofen Plus and Panadeine.

If TGA’s recommendations are put in place, we will soon need a prescription from our doctor to take it from June next year.

“There is … a lack of evidence of any benefit of codeine over placebo in the relief of cough, making the risk/benefit profile for this indication unfavourable,” TGA’s report said.

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The AMA said it was backing TGA to make the right decision for patients.

The Australian Medical Association said it backed the TGA to make an appropriate decision.

“One of the issue about the use of codeine is that it should only be used, if over-the-counter, for short-term pain relief, and yet it appears from the evidence that it’s used for longer term relief,” AMA vice-president Dr Stephen Parnis told the ABC’s AM program.

The Pharmacy Guild says these kinds of medicines come in handy for patients, which is absolutely true – you can only imagine how much harder it will be to get a doctor’s appointment now.


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“The majority of people do use these quite safely and wisely,” guild president George Tambassis told AM.

“They do look after the pain of a lot of people out there that perhaps paracetamol and aspirin and maybe the anti-inflammatories that we’ve also got to choose [from] in terms of our recommendations do not.

“So I can’t agree with some of the data that they may have access to because at the pharmacy level we do find these products do come in handy for a lot of patients out there”.

One other option is for a real-time monitoring system that helps pharmacists make sure patients are using the drugs correctly and not purchasing multiple products from multiple pharmacies.

“If we pick up on these people that are either using these products too much or it’s obvious that they’re addicted to them, we’ll deal with that if we have the data in front of us,” Mr Tambassis said.

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The TGA is expected to make a final decision in late November.


Tell us, do you think this is ridiculous? Should codeine be allowed to be sold over the counter? What do you think will happen to the doctor’s waiting room?