© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2022

Prescriptions may restrict codeine-based painkillers

The Self medication Industry Association believes there are "more elegant solutions" to regulating codeine-based pain killers other than making them prescription-only.


Following a decision in Australia, the New Zealand Medicine classification committee will review over-the-counter painkillers containing codeine in May.

Executive Director of the SMIA Scott Milne says they welcome any review, "we certainly don't have a problem with looking at the evidence around the supply of these medications, the risk associated with them and also the benefits."

Milne said addiction to codeine-based painkillers did not affect the majority of its users.

"There are no records of people who use codeine related products correctly, getting addicted."

However, Milne said the SMIA will present alternative regulatory solutions to Medsafe in upcoming discussions.

"We do believe there are better ways than regulation to solve the problems of very few users who are addicted to codeine-related self-medication," said Milne.

He said, pharmacists already record identification and addresses for all customers who use codeine-based painkillers. He also claims people can go to multiple pharmacies to buy excessive amounts of the drug.

A Christchurch pharmacist said, while all pharmacies do note identification of codeine users, the systems vary from store to store and medical privacy laws pose many restrictions to a centralised system.

Medsafe discussions begin next month where the Self Medication Industry Association will present alternative solutions.