NPS Media Releases 1. Prescription-only codeine 2. Unnecessary tests-Contradictory view

Prescription-only codeine? Talk to your doctor about the many ways to manage pain

NPS MedicineWise is urging people to take the opportunity to talk with their doctor or pharmacist about the best way to manage their pain following a decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) today that products containing codeine will be available on prescription only from 1 February 2018.

Codeine is from the group of medicines called opioids. In Australia, most opioid-containing medicines including those with high doses of codeine (30 mg or more) are only available on prescription. However low-dose codeine is currently sold over the counter in combination with other active ingredients like paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin.

NPS MedicineWise spokesperson and pharmacist Sarah Spagnardi says that evidence shows these low doses of codeine have little therapeutic benefit over and above the other analgesic ingredients also present in these combination medicines —but come with increased risks.

“The decision announced today by the TGA to make codeine-containing products available only on prescription will help to reduce the rates of  side effects, misuse and dependence associated with codeine in the community,” says Ms Spagnardi.

“Misuse of these over-the-counter products  also increases the risk of side effects related to the other ingredients such as paracetamol or ibuprofen that are sold in combination with codeine.”

People who commonly take codeine purchased over-the-counter are often managing pain, which can be a complex condition.

Pain management strategies can and should vary according to the type of pain, the cause of the pain and the length of time it has been experienced, says Ms Spagnardi.

“It’s important to understand that there are many ways to manage pain, including a variety of medicine and non-medicine options.”

These codeine-containing combination medicines are indicated for temporary pain relief only. If you are finding they no longer provide sufficient pain relief, or you are needing to take them for longer periods of time, a review of your situation by your doctor is probably the best course of action.

“For everyone—but especially for people managing ongoing or chronic pain—this change to the availability of codeine-containing products is an opportunity to have a conversation with their GP or pharmacist and develop a plan for the best management of their pain,” says Ms Spagnardi.

NPS MedicineWise has an online information hub for consumers on chronic pain and managing pain, including:

  • Information on living with and managing chronic pain
  • Tips for talking to your health professional, including a communication tool
  • FAQs about chronic pain
  • Useful links and resources for managing pain

These resources are available at

For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may cost more). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEDT (excluding public holidays. NPS Medicines Line will be closed from 5pm on Friday 23 December, re-opening at 9am on Monday 3 January).

New report: Contradicting views on reasons behind unnecessary tests

While Australians understand the importance of reducing unnecessary medical testing, many people still want their doctors to conduct all the available tests related to their condition regardless of need, according to a new report from Choosing Wisely Australia®.

Choosing Wisely is part of a global movement working to improve the quality and safety of healthcare for consumers by eliminating unnecessary care, including tests, treatments and procedures. The initiative is led by Australia’s health profession and facilitated by NPS MedicineWise.

The Choosing Wisely in Australia 2016 Report offers some key insights into the drivers of unnecessary healthcare and details the success of the campaign since it launched in Australia last year.

Dr Lynn Weekes, CEO of NPS MedicineWise, said the report revealed some contradictory attitudes among consumers around medical testing and a need for better conversations between healthcare professionals and consumers around their testing and treatment options.

“It found 71% of people agreed with reducing unnecessary care,” Dr Weekes said. “However 74% indicated that if they were sick, their doctor should conduct all available medical tests related to their condition.

“There’s also an obvious disconnect between doctors and patients about why unnecessary testing is occurring.

“Of those we surveyed, 41% of GPs and 21% of specialists said they were asked by patients for unnecessary tests several times a week. But 79% of consumers said they had tests at their healthcare provider’s recommendation.
“This certainly highlights the need for better conversations on both sides.”

“Our work with health professionals and consumers aims to eliminate medical practices where evidence shows they provide no benefit and, in some cases, can lead to harm.

“We do this by promoting the latest recommendations on managing specific health concerns from Australia’s medical experts. It’s also about fostering better conversations between healthcare professionals and their patients around care options, based on the most up-to-date evidence.”

Choosing Wisely Australia launched with six member organisations from Australia’s specialist medical colleges, societies and associations releasing 26 recommendations. This has grown to 28 (more than 70% of medical colleges) with 123 recommendations published.

Dr Weekes said: “This strong engagement by the medical profession in parallel with national and state-based consumer health advocacy groups demonstrates a real appetite in the community for a national discourse on the appropriate, safe and effective use of the country’s health resources.

“We also know navigating the health system and the myriad of tests, treatments and procedure options available to consumers is challenging, but their inappropriate use could cause people stress, or even unnecessary harm.

“With this in mind we have been promoting a popular resource for consumers titled ‘5 Questions to ask your doctor before you get any test, treatment or procedure’, as well as a guide to planning your next medical appointment.”


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