Codeine-based pain killers will only be available on prescription from February 1, with experts fearing it will increase demand for GP appointments, leave some patients suffering withdrawal symptoms or pain, and result in patients opting for medications that could damage their health.
UFS pharmacy clinical advisor Peter Fell warned the need for a prescription to access previously-available codeine products would put pressure on doctors.
“It will put unnecessary pressure on the number of medical appointments required and, considering a lot of Ballarat doctors are already hard to get in to, it will make that situation worse,” he said.
Government medicines regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration announced in 2016 that many popular brands of codeine-based pain killers would be withdrawn from sale.
Mr Fell said the dose of codeine available in over-the-counter medications was not considered therapeutically effective, and there were other medications that could do the job better. Codeine can also be addictive and some patients were misusing or abusing the drug.
Because of its addictive nature, Mr Fell said some users would not realise they were dependent until they no longer had access to the drug.
“A lot of people, probably in their own mind, who were using it responsibly will potentially have some withdrawals and physical discomfort because they have become dependent.”
Mr Fell fears many patients will swap to anti-inflammatory medications and alternatives to combat pain, putting their health on the line.
“They are quite effective medications but not suitable for a reasonable percentage of the population,” he warned.
People with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, kidney problems, diabetes should not take anti-inflammatory medications because of dangerous side-effects.
“My concern from a public health perspective is that we are going to see, in six to 12 months, a big spike in people presenting to doctors or hospitals with gastrointestinal issues, kidney function problems and other side-effects.
“People shouldn’t jump in to an alternative product until they talk to their pharmacist or doctor.”
From February 1, Panadeine, Panadeine Extra, Mersyndol, Nurofen Plus, Panafen Plus, Aspalgin, Codis, Dispirin Forte, Codral Original Cold & Flu, Demazin Day & Night Cold & Flu and equivalent generic products will only be available on prescription.