Chemists ready to help as codeine changes come into force

Cobar Pharmacy’s pharmacist Marie Zuno urged local residents to speak with staff at their local chemists about alternatives after new Federal Government laws come into effect tomorrow requiring a prescription for products containing codeine.

From tomorrow Cobar residents, like all other Australian residents, will no longer be able to buy medication containing codeine from chemists without a prescription.

The Australian Government has made changes to the law regarding the sale of medicines containing codeine.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) unanimously agreed to the changes saying some Australians don’t realise how much harm codeine can cause.

The TGA advises codeine is an opioid drug which is similar to morphine and research has shown the current over-the-counter low-dose (less than 30mg) medicines that contain codeine for pain relief actually offer very little additional benefit when compared to similar medications which do not contain codeine.

According to the TGA, consumers can become addicted to codeine without even realising it as it can cause an opioid tolerance, a dependence, poisoning and, if taken in high doses, even death.

Cobar Primary Health Care Centre practice manager Bernie Martin said the practice’s doctors have been undergoing training in regards to the change of the codeine law.

“Codeine is not meant for long term use and there can be adverse side effects,” Mrs Martin said.

“It will probably put extra pressure on our GP’s but it is up to the GP to work with the patient to work out a pain management plan.”

Mrs Martin said access to pain management specialists may be difficult for rural patients however telehealth appointments can be accessed by patients.

“It can be difficult for patients but we are here to help them and we will do the best we can.”

Pharmacist at Cobar Pharmacy Marie Zuno told The Cobar Weekly they are always there to support the community and help with their needs.

“Every time a customer requests codeine we will talk about the alternatives,” Ms Zuno said.

“With chronic pain we always recommend to see the doctor but we are always here to help them out and discuss their options with everything, including pain management.”

John Mitchell Pharmacy manager Courtney Deighton reported staff have been notifying their customers since last year about the intended changes to codeine supply.

The National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) has developed information to help people living in rural and remote areas to adjust to the change in law.

NRHA’s CEO Mark Diamond explained  that people in rural and remote areas are more vulnerable to the potential negative impact
of such changes, due to different levels of service.

“In many parts of the country, going to see a healthcare practitioner is not necessarily a simple matter of phoning to make an appointment and rocking up the next day.

“For many individuals, getting assistance depends very much on what health services are actually available in the area, and planning for the time, money and logistics involved in getting there,” Mr Diamond said.

For more information for those living in rural and remote Australia please visit