Codeine use and harms in Australia: evaluating the effects of re‐scheduling
New research by the University of Sydney shows Australia's move to restrict over-the-counter codeine medication has led to a dramatic drop in the number of overdoses. The study, published in the journal Addiction, found that in the year after the change, there was a 51% drop in codeine poisonings overall. This mainly affected low strength preparations (the category no longer available without prescription), where poisonings dropped by 79%.
There was no increase in poisonings with high strength codeine or other opioids. Similarly, sales data showed overall use of codeine dropped by almost 50%, with use of low strength codeine most affected, dropping by 87%. Again, there was no increase in use of high strength codeine.
The first peer-reviewed research to investigate the effect of the ‘switch’ to prescription-only codeine in February 2018 used data from the NSW Poisons Information Centre, which fields 50 per cent of all poisoning calls in Australia.
The research strongly corroborates efforts by most of the sector that supported the TGA’s decision to upschedule codeine. Painaustralia is proud to note that The Real Relief campaign – led by Painaustralia and supported by partner organisations the Faculty of Pain Medicine (ANZCA), Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Rural Doctors Association of Australia, Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia, the Australian Pain Society, the Consumers Health Forum and ScriptWise – contributed to and made significant inroads on this front, and we are delighted that research now documents the massive reduction in opioid related harm through these measures.