Wagga pharmacies will no longer sell codeine-based painkiller over the counter

Common painkillers containing codeine will no longer be sold over-the-counter in Wagga pharmacies from February 1.

Medications like Nurofen Plus, Panadeine and Codral cold tablets will be affected by an Australia-wide change

The government’s move comes as Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed 68 per cent of the 668 overdose deaths in 2013 were related to pharmaceutical opioids

Advocacy group Painaustralia has been encouraging people who rely on medications containing codeine to see their GP in preparation for the change.

Chief excutive officer Carol Bennett is calling for better education for people who are dealing with chronic pain.

"We know that reliance on codeine and other opioid-based drugs for treatment of chronic pain is not effective. We also know these drugs are associated with significant unwanted side effects, risk of overuse, dependence and addiction.

“The community need to be more aware about the dangers of codeine use, and why it is ineffective for chronic pain management.

“In recent years, opioids have become the first line treatment for chronic pain, leaving many Australians relying on these drugs to manage their pain. People in pain need better information and access to long term effective treatments.”

Wagga GPs, pharmacists and other health professionals have been gearing up for the change.

More than 40 health professionals from across the region attended a workshop in Wagga last month, organised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (MPHN) to provide information on the so-called codeine up-scheduling and its implications for people with chronic pain.

“Our local health professionals, particularly GPs and pharmacists, will continue to provide patients with information in the lead-up to the changes. People who require support for chronic pain management should speak with their general practitioner,” MPHN acting chief executive officer Melissa Neal said.

Wagga pharmacists have also been sharing information about the new rules with customers for some time.

“We have been handing out brochures and pamphlets since November,” pharmacist Michael O’Reilly said.