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Over the counter changes

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Photo – Alcohol & Drug Foundation
Photo – Alcohol & Drug Foundation

By Jessica Howard

Painkillers containing the drug codeine will no longer be sold over the counter at pharmacies as of today.

The crackdown follows concerns about the overuse and abuse of the opiate drug, which is found in common painkillers such as Nurofen Plus, Codral and Panadeine.

From Thursday (February 1), people seeking these and other codeine-based pain medications, will need to visit a doctor to receive a prescription.

Ballan District Health and Care (BDH&C) practice manager, Tanya Gradolf said now is the time for codeine-users to talk to their doctor.

“If you have been relying on over the counter medications containing codeine for your pain and you feel the changes are likely to cause you some difficulty, it is the right moment to make an appointment to see your GP,” she said.

“Your doctor can work with you to review your past treatment and may be able to offer some fresh, non-judgemental approaches”.

A household survey conducted by the National Drug Strategy in 2016 reported 75 per cent of people who misused pharmaceuticals had used over-the-counter codeine-containing painkillers.

In 2013, 68 per cent of the 668 overdose deaths were related to pharmaceutical opioids.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration announced the decision to re-schedule the drug in December 2016, stating there was evidence that misuse of codeine contributes to liver damage; low blood potassium levels; stomach ulceration and perforations; respiratory depression and death.

“Low-dose codeine-containing medicines are not intended to treat long-term conditions, however public consultation indicated that many consumers used these products to self-treat chronic pain. This meant that consumers frequently became addicted to codeine,” a TGA statement said.

The TGA decision brings Australia into line with the United States, Japan and most of Europe.
BDH&C’s physiotherapist, Libby Woods said there are many different ways Ballan’s physiotherapists and other allied health professionals can help with pain.

“One of our most important roles is to work with you to keep you moving,” she said.

“The hydrotherapy pool and the rehabilitation gymnasium can also be very helpful”.

Other BDH&C allied health services include occupational therapy, exercise physiology and dietetics.

A free drug and alcohol counsellor is also available through the Ballarat Goldfields Brief Intervention Program and UnitingCare Ballarat.

Under the program, residents are eligible for up to five brief intervention counselling sessions; psychological and information-based support and referrals to other services.

The program is also available to those affected by someone else’s substance use.

For more information on the service contact 0427 372 969 or Ballan District Health and Care’s GP Clinic on 5366 7999.