Painkillers containing codeine will require a prescription in Australia from 2018 amid concerns over misuse. Under current laws, codeine can be obtained in
compound form in over-the-counter painkillers and cough medicines. But Australia’s drug regulator believes the risk of addiction is too great. The decision brings Australia into line with most developed countries in requiring a prescription for the opioid-based medication. The US, most of Europe, Hong Kong and Japan has stopped the sale of over-the-counter codeine products. Australia’s Therapeutic Drugs Administration (TGA) said consumers often became addicted to the drug. “Misuse of over-the-counter codeine products contributes to severe health outcomes including liver damage, stomach ulceration, respiratory depression and death,” it said in a statement. The new rules will begin on 1 February 2018. The TGA recommended patients discuss new treatment plans with their doctors, including whether to use painkilling alternatives such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.