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Consumers face new curbs on access to OTC codeine

December 17, 2009

Consumers to face new curbs on access to OTC codeine pain relievers

The New Zealand Self-Medication Industry (NZSMI), the industry body representing non-prescription consumer healthcare products, today expressed disappointment at measures which will make it more difficult for New Zealand consumers to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers containing codeine.

The Executive Director of NZSMI, Tim Roper, said that the decision from Medsafe’s Medicine Classification Committee (MCC) means that access to OTC analgesics containing codeine will become considerably more restricted in the future.

“The decision of the MCC is very disappointing because the overwhelming majority of consumers use these products appropriately and safely. These medicines play an important role in relieving strong pain, and limitations on their availability will be an enormous inconvenience to thousands of responsible users.

“The decision means that consumers will only be able to purchase small packs of analgesics containing codeine and only after a conversation with their pharmacist, while larger packs will require a prescription from a doctor. This decision will have a huge impact on consumers as well as on the consumer healthcare industry.

“We acknowledge that there is a very small number of people who misuse or abuse analgesics containing codeine and who have suffered serious adverse events as a result. However, it is unlikely that these changes will have any positive impact on problem users,” Mr Roper said.

At this stage the date for implementation is unknown and there is a period where companies can challenge the decision if any further evidence is available which might impact on the decision.

Mr Roper said this means that until the decision is implemented people will be able to continue to purchase these medicines as they currently do. However, he says it is important to use these medicines strictly according to instructions on the label. Longer term use should only be under the supervision of a doctor or pharmacist.

“From our perspective, we do not believe that such measures need to be taken in New Zealand because of the small problem of abuse that is well contained,” he maintains.

Despite its disappointment at the way these changes have been made, the industry remains keen to work with relevant stakeholders to ensure consumers’ best interests are met, including the continued safe and effective use of these products.


About SMI: The New Zealand Self-Medication Industry Association Inc (SMI) is the national trade association representing manufacturers, marketers and distributors of a wide range of products, generally available "over-the-counter" (OTC) and mainly for use in self-medication by New Zealand consumers. SMI’s mission is to promote better health through responsible self-care. This means ensuring that safe and effective self-care products are readily available to all New Zealanders at a reasonable cost. SMI works to encourage responsible use by consumers and an increasing role for cost-effective self-medication products as part of the broad national health strategy.

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