Changes to codeine-containing medications

Changes to codeine-containing medications

What’s changing?

From 1 February 2018, medicines containing codeine will no longer be available without a prescription. This includes medicines required for pain relief such as Panadeine and Nurofen Plus and cold and flu, such as Codral Cold and Flu.

Why is this happening?

Codeine is a member of the opiate group of pain-relievers which are related to morphine. Research has shown that low-dose codeine products such as those available over-the-counter (ibuprofen and paracetamol), currently do not offer any greater degree of pain relief when compared to similar medicines without codeine.

Codeine is effective at relieving short-term pain, but at higher doses (30mg) as found in prescription-only medicines.

Codeine also comes with risks and may cause harm. Tolerance may occur as the body needs higher doses of codeine for the same effect. You can also experience withdrawal symptoms, such as head and muscle aches, mood swings, insomnia, nausea and diarrhoea if the medicine is stopped.

Over-the-counter codeine medicines also contain paracetamol and ibuprofen. Long-term and more frequent consumption of paracetamol may cause liver damage. Excessive ibuprofen use may cause internal bleeding, kidney failure and an increased risk of heart attack.

Codeine has also been involved in poisonings, leading to deaths in Australia.

Where can you get help?

Firstly, consult your doctor if you have chronic pain and if medicines are a suggested part of your treatment. If so a prescription may be needed. Your doctor may recommend non-medicine therapies from an allied health professional such as a physiotherapist; self-management tools such as exercise or relaxation; or referral to a pain specialist or pain management clinic.

You can then talk to your National Pharmacies pharmacist about choosing an effective product to manage acute (sudden on-set) pain that does not contain codeine.



The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and should be used as a guide only. This information does not replace or substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before any action is taken based on the content of this webpage.

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