Ban on accessing over-the-counter pain relief products (analgesics) containing codeine at pharmacies and chemists comes into effect on 1 February 2018.

Media Release

Pain policy change adds burden

Monday 22 January 2018

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) ban on over-the-counter pain relief products (analgesics) containing codeine which comes into effect on 1 February 2018, is a retrograde and disempowering step for people with chronic pain conditions especially people living with HIV (PLHIV).  

“While nothing stops us from seeking a prescription from our doctor, this policy change by the TGA reduces our autonomy as empowered patients. It imposes a scenario of extra negotiation and appointments with our doctors in limited appointment times,” said Craig Cooper, CEO of Positive Life NSW.

PLHIV who experience peripheral neuropathy and chronic pain associated with other comorbid conditions will be affected by the ban increasing our dependence on a time-poor and expensive medical system.

Paracetamol/ibuprofen combinations which are routinely offered as an alternative to codeine-based products are impractical for many PLHIV who are on anti-retrovirals (ARVs), due to drug interactions and the increased risk of renal, liver or kidney damage. 

“The majority of PLHIV already manage our chronic intermittent pain conditions safely and appropriately. This move also restricts the role of our pharmacists who have taken an increasingly supportive stance alongside PLHIV with the introduction of ARV dispensing in community pharmacies,” he said.  

“The clarifications provided by Peter Carroll, President of the NSW branch of the Pharmaceutical Society as reported in The Conversation (18 January 2018) that this prescription-only solution will increase codeine use rather than reduce it, echoes the sentiment of Positive Life NSW.  While we acknowledge that dependence on codeine-based products can cause harm and fatalities, we agree with Mr Carroll that shifting to a prescription-only option to address the abuse of prescription medicines is a flawed and short-sighted response,” said Mr Cooper.

Positive Life is encouraged by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard’s remaining concerns about these restrictions, and recognizes the support of The Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia collaboration in developing materials and resources to support pharmacists and their patients around the changes.

Craig Cooper, CEO – 1800 245 677 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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