OTC Codeine real-time monitoring system can succeed

17 May 2016

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OTC Codeine real-time monitoring system can succeed

17 May 2016 -The Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) said real-time monitoring of OTC codeine containing analgesics, in addition to a range of other targeted measures including mandatory warning statements, reducing pack sizes and educational materials, provides the best chance to curb potential misuse.

This was in response to a report published inAddictiontitled "Codeine Misuse in Australia". ASMI welcomed the new report, as there is a need for more data on the topic.

"This new report would have provided additional useful insights if the authors had separately examined the prescription and OTC products (instead of pooling them), because it has been reported  that misuse and abuse of prescription opiate and psychoactive drugs have escalated significantly over the past several years[1] " states Steve Scarff, ASMI Director Regulatory and Scientific Affairs

The study authors themselves acknowledge that a real-time monitoring system could be an alternative to re-scheduling and ASMI supports this view.

ASMI has been working with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia to develop and refine a real-time monitoring system (medsASSIST). The system has been trialled in community pharmacy and is currently being implemented nationally. It records customer details, information about the supplied product, recent purchases and indications for supply or refusal.

Information entered into the system is linked in real time, allowing pharmacists to accurately identify consumers who purchase OTC codeine analgesics at multiple pharmacies. Pharmacists are prompted to provide these consumers with information and advice to assist those who may be having problems with chronic pain, dependence or misuse, and refer them to their GP or pain clinic as appropriate

The benefits of a real-time monitoring system will therefore be two-fold. Firstly, the system will assist pharmacists in providing appropriate advice to consumers. Secondly, the system will generate objective data on the potential misuse of OTC codeine containing analgesics.

"We believe real-time recording provides a useful counselling tool for pharmacists to ensure the quality use of these medicines and to identify problem use." said ASMI's Steve Scarff.

 The TGA is expected to make a final decision on the possible rescheduling to prescription-only of codeine-containing medicines after June.


[1] Dobbin M. Pharmaceutical drug misuse in Australia. Australian Prescriber 2014; 37(3):79-81