Decision on OTC codeine rescheduling delayed

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says it will move quickly to implement a real-time monitoring system for over the counter codeine sales following an announcement by the Department of Health to defer a final decision on rescheduling OTC codeine to prescription-only.

Last month, the Department of Health's medicines scheduling delegate made an interim decision to support a proposal to re-schedule combination analgesics and cold and flu remedies from Schedules 2 and 3 (pharmacy and pharmacist-only) to Schedule 4 (prescription-only).

However, in an announcement from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) this morning, the delegate has decided to defer making a final decision until next year due to the large number of submissions received, the majority opposed to the proposal.

The deferral of the decision will allow the delegate the option to seek further advice, including from the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling (ACMS) at its March 2016 meeting, prior to making a final decision, which will not be before June 2016.

A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild said that should the final decision require an implementation date, it will not be before 2017.

“The Guild will move quickly to implement a real time recording system for codeine sales, as recommended in our submission to ACMS,” the spokesperson said.

“This system will help identify consumers potentially at risk, and provide clinical referral pathways. The Guild also supports mandatory front-of-pack warnings about the potential for addiction, and increased consumer education about the risks.”

Of the 127 public submissions made following the interim decision, 113 did not support the rescheduling proposal. An economic analysis commissioned by the Guild found that upscheduling codeine would cost the healthcare system $316 million extra a year.

The Guild has developed a prototype real-time monitoring system in association with its IT subsidiary, GuildLink, that will allow pharmacists to record the names of customers purchasing codeine-containing medications.

It will also allow them to check in real-time whether the customer has recently purchased other codeine-containing medications and to make a decision on whether to sell the products.

The Guild estimates the system will cost several hundred thousand dollars to build, and the same to maintain on an annual basis.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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