Why you may soon need a prescription to get painkillers

Pain killers may soon need a prescription.

At some point we’ve all bought painkillers such as Nurofen or cold and flu drugs such as Codral off the shelves of the local chemist or supermarket.

But that could be all about change.

The next time you go to buy a medicine containing codeine, you may have to get a prescription first.

Why’s that?

Well, it all started in October last year when codeine medications such as Nurofen Plus were rescheduled as prescription only by the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling.

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The decision was put on hold after chemists and customers protested, but a new announcement could be just weeks away – according to reports in the Adelaide Advertiser.

Experts on pain and addiction are going public today to argue that a Department of Health committee should make the drugs prescription only.

Addiction medicine specialist Dr Hester Wilson told the Adelaide Advertiser that codeine was “pretty much all risk with no benefit”.

“It’s a lousy painkiller and when codeine is combined with say paracetamol or ibuprofen in over the counter products, it offers little, if any, additional pain relief,”  she said.

And she’s not the only expert slamming our reliance of codeine drugs.

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Apparently, 460,000 of us who use codeine medicines suffer from headaches caused by medication overuse, making us dependent on the drugs.

Neurologist Professor Richard Stark supports making drugs that contain codeine prescription only.

“If you take it regularly (more than 10 days a month) the body expects codeine to be around and soon as it dips it can trigger a migraine,” he said.

Who knew that popping a Nurofen a day could do that?

Pain expert and rural GP Dr Simon Halliday argues pharmacists had a “conflict of interest” selling drugs containing codeine.

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“They are selling a drug of addiction with little or no regulatory supervision or control with their volume of sales directly relating to pharmacy profitability,” he said.

So, what are the pharmacists saying?

Well, they’re arguing that making the drugs prescription only won’t stop people abusing their use.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia is arguing making codeine medications prescription only will cost the government more, because Medicare will be funding doctors’ visits by patients trying to get a prescription.

And that’s reportedly backed up by economists, with Cadence Economics arguing that even if only 53% of people using the drugs went to the doctor for a prescription, it’d still cost an extra $316 million in Medicare payments.

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Each year, Australians make 16.4 million purchases of painkillers containing codeine, and 5.2 million purchases of codeine cold and flu medications.

What do you think? Should these medications require a prescription?