Nearly 150 people are hospitalised in Australia every day as a result of the adverse effects of opioid pain medicines.
In a concerted effort to reduce this – and opioid-related dependence, illnesses and cases of misuse – the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is urging Australians to return unused prescription pain relief medicines to their local pharmacy.
Australians who are prescribed painkillers and don’t use them all are advised not to keep them ‘just in case’ or for use down the track.
Keeping unused prescription pain medication in the home is dangerous for children and pets if accidently consumed, and can be a target for theft and misuse.
Unused pain relief medication, like all medicines, can be returned to a local pharmacy for safe disposal free of charge.
The reminder is part of the TGA’s campaign to reduce the potential adverse impacts of opioids on the health of Australians.
The strategy included the TGA’s decision to up-schedule codeine to a Prescription Only Medicine in February 2018, which led to a 50 per cent decrease in the total volume of products containing codeine supplied in Australia during 2018, compared to the average total supplied in the previous four years. The data suggests that patients previously taking over-the-counter codeine did not switch to other opioids.
The decision to up-schedule codeine was based on the best available evidence which showed low-dose codeine combined with paracetamol or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – such as ibuprofen or aspirin – was generally no more effective than non-codeine medicines.
Medicines containing codeine are associated with health risks including addiction leading to misuse, liver damage, gastrointestinal perforations, blood potassium imbalances and respiratory depression. These risks were judged to be too high for people to take them without a doctor overseeing the treatment.