New rules for over-the-counter pain medication

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From today, pain relief and cough and cold medicines containing codeine are only available with a doctor’s prescription.

If you’re a pilot, engineer, air traffic controller or in any other safety sensitive aviation position, you should not in any event take products containing codeine without consulting a doctor. This includes products which you might have bought without a prescription before today.

CASA routinely screens for codeine and opiates as part of its alcohol and drug testing program. Codeine is converted into morphine by the body and can impair performance in a safety sensitive environment.

The new rules affect products which contain up to 30 mg of codeine, and which had previously been available over the counter in pharmacies. This includes brands such as Panadeine, Nurofen Plus, Mersyndol, Disprin Forte and Codral Original Cold and Flu. Pain-relief medicines containing only paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin, such as Panadol, Nurofen and Disprin, aren’t affected by the change.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration says that the codeine in pain medication offers little additional benefit and if used regularly, can cause addiction.

Pharmacists have been advised to discuss alternatives with their patients, and if necessary refer them to a doctor.

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