21 Jan 2010

Limits on painkillers will hurt - pharmaceutical body

5:58 am on 21 January 2010

The industry body for over-the-counter medication says proposed restrictions on access to some painkillers will penalise responsible users.

The drug regulator Medsafe is considering whether to restrict the sale of products containing the opioid codeine, such as Panadeine and Nurofen Plus, in response to concerns about increasing rates of misuse and addiction.

The Medicines Classification Committee is recommending smaller pack sizes, warning labels and restricting access to sales only by pharmacists.

Tim Roper, the executive director of the Self Medication Industry Association, says there could have been a compromise to allow lower-dose codeine products to remain on the shelves.

Mr Roper says the industry is asking for any changes to be deferred for 12 months, to allow existing product to be sold.

Medsafe says it is aware of up to 30 painkilling medicines that contain codeine, including the brands Panadeine and Nurofen Plus. These medicines are currently on pharmacy shelves, but the Medicines Classifications Committee wants them available only through direct sale by a pharmacist.

The committee has also recommended pack sizes be limited to a maximum five days' supply and labelled with a warning that codeine is addictive.

The Minister of Health is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks on whether to restrict access.