OTC analgesics containing codeine safe for the majority of users

13 September 2013

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13 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) has reinforced today.

ASMI's comments follow the release of preliminary research findings from the University of Adelaide which suggest that using large and frequent doses of the codeine may produce heightened sensitivity to pain.1,2

However, the study, which investigated the pharmacological effects of codeine in mice, used significantly higher doses of codeine than is recommended and approved for human use, and whether the study findings translate to an effect in low-dose, short-term use of codeine has not been demonstrated.

According to ASMI Executive Director Dr Deon Schoombie:"The level of use that is apparent in the University of Adelaide's mouse study suggests a pattern that is extreme, and far in excess of what is recommended and what is typical for the majority of consumers who use OTC medicines containing codeine for short-term pain relief.

"The use of non-prescription medicines containing codeine is safe when used according to label instructions. These medicines are intended strictly for short term use and pack sizes are limited to five days supply."

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. University of Adelaide. Media Release: Codeine could increase users' sensitivity to pain. 12 September 2013.
2. Erik Greb (editor). Codeine and Morphine May Increase Pain Sensitivity Equally. Neurology Reviews. 2013 21(9):14-15.