From 1 February 2018 all medicines containing codeine will require a prescription; there will no longer be access to over-the-counter codeine containing medicines without a prescription.

There are safer, effective alternative products available over-the-counter which do not contain codeine, and many non-drug options to manage pain. There are also several over-the-counter medicines available for treating cough, cold and flu symptoms which do not contain codeine. Both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical options for treatment can be discussed with pharmacists, GPs and allied health professionals.

Medicines affected

The medicines affected include:

  • codeine-containing combination analgesics, such as:
    • Panadeine
    • Nurofen Plus
    • Mersyndol
    • pharmacy brand pain relief products
  • codeine-containing cough, cold and flu products such as:
    • Codral
    • Demazin
    • pharmacy brand cough, cold and flu medicines.

Why is codeine being rescheduled?

Research shows that current over-the-counter low-dose codeine containing medicines for pain relief offer very little additional benefit but high health risks, when compared to similar medicines without codeine.

Codeine can cause opioid tolerance, dependence, addiction, poisoning and in high doses, even death. Regular use of medicines containing codeine, for example for chronic pain, has led to some consumers becoming addicted to codeine without realising it. The risks associated with codeine use are too high without oversight from a doctor.

Consumer advice

Your pharmacist will be able to help you choose from a range of effective products that do not require a prescription.

If you have strong or chronic (persistent) pain you will need to consult your doctor.

People with chronic pain should talk to their doctor to develop an appropriate treatment plan; this will ensure that the best treatment options are used to manage the condition.

If you think that you are unable to manage without codeine and experience some of the side effects of withdrawal, talk to your doctor about getting help or contact Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia on 1300 13 1340 (SA callers only). Confidential telephone counselling and information available between 8.30 am and 10.00 pm every day.

For pharmacists

From 1 February 2018 all medicines containing codeine will require a prescription. The current stock of codeine-containing over-the-counter medicines can continue to be sold over the counter until 31 January 2018.

You may want to suggest the use of alternative products that are available over the counter, or advise patients to discuss their pain and cough, cold and flu management options with their GP.

Be prepared with answers to your customer queries.

For doctors

Doctors may see more people requesting codeine for pain management when codeine becomes a Prescription Only Medicine on 1 February 2018.

Tips for talking about codeine: Guidance for health professionals with prescribing authority

Further information

For further information about the change to codeine access and resources for consumers, health professionals and retail pharmacies, refer to the following sites: