OTC analgesics containing codeine safe for the majority of users: Response to Letter to Editor in MJA

18 September 2013

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18 September 2013 - Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines containing codeine, including codeine-combination analgesics, are an effective short-term option for temporary relief of moderate to strong pain, when taken according to the directions on the pack, the Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) reaffirmed today.

ASMI's comments follow a Letter to the Editor in the Medical Journal of Australia in which researchers from Monash University state that reports of inadvertent misuse of, and dependence on, OTC codeine-combination analgesics are on the rise in Victoria.1
"The issue of misuse and addiction to OTC analgesics is a serious health issue, which should not be downplayed. However, it's important to keep in mind that the vast majority of people who use these products do so responsibly," said ASMI Executive Director Dr Deon Schoombie.

In Australia, OTC codeine-combination analgesics are only available behind the counter in pharmacy after consultation with a pharmacist. These medicines are intended strictly for short term use and pack sizes are limited to five days supply. Longer term use should only occur under the direction of a GP or pharmacist.

Dr Schoombie continued: "ASMI is committed to supporting the quality use of medicines in all aspects of analgesic use, including issues such as labelling, packaging, dosage and availability of public information. We have been working with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on ways to support safe use, including label warning statements to alert consumers, as well as pharmacists, of the risks associated inappropriate use."
When taking a pain reliever, like any medicine, it is important that consumers read the label carefully, including the warning statements on the pack, and only take the medicines as directed. If pain or other symptoms persist, they should consult a doctor or pharmacist.
Media contact: Michelle Sollitt-Davis - ASMI PR Manager
Ph: 02 9923 9410 | M: 0422 084 951 | Email: michelle@asmi.com.au

About ASMI: The Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) is the peak industry body for the Australian self care industry representing consumer healthcare products including over-the-counter medicines and complementary medicines. ASMI's mission is to promote better health through responsible self-care. This means ensuring that safe and effective self-care products are readily available to all Australians at a reasonable cost. ASMI works to encourage responsible use by consumers and an increasing role for cost-effective self-medication products as part of the broad national health strategy. www.asmi.com.au

1. Jennifer L Pilgrim, Malcolm Dobbin, Olaf H Drummer. Letter to Editor: Fatal misuse of codeine-ibuprofen analgesics in Victoria, Australia. MJA 199 (5) ยท 2 September 2013.