Darcy Allen is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs and Jason Potts is an Adjunct Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs.
Imposing mandatory prescriptions for drugs containing codeine will line the pockets of medical professionals at the cost of taxpayers.
Recently the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW released research showing codeine-related deaths increased from 3.5 to 8.7 per million of the population from 2000 to 2009.
That sounds very bad, but almost all of these approximately 150 deaths per year involved ‘multiple drug toxicity’. That is, codeine was one of several drugs involved. So it’s not actually even obvious that codeine is the problem here.
Nevertheless, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) maintains codeine is an addictive ‘drug of abuse’ in desperate need of regulatory attention. Their recent interim decision means all over-the-counter medicines containing codeine be changed to prescription-only as early as mid-2016.
One of the quickest ways to effectively assess calls for new regulations is to follow the money. So, who wins and who loses from making codeine prescription-only?
Doctors win. Forcing more patients to queue at the door for basic prescriptions means more money in the pockets of GPs. A Macquarie University study finds up-scheduling analgesics will directly cost consumers an additional $70 million, and cost the PBS an additional $170 million. That money flows to doctors.
Consumers and pharmacies lose. If such a proposal goes ahead this means hundreds of popular painkillers — including Panadeine Forte, Nurofen Plus and Codral Cold and Flu — will become more expensive and inconvenient for everyday Australians. Pain will become a lot more painful.