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COUNTER: Gunnedah pharmacist Karen Carter says up-scheduling will increase the cost of Medicare due to more GP visits. Photo: Billy Jupp
COUNTER: Gunnedah pharmacist Karen Carter says up-scheduling will increase the cost of Medicare due to more GP visits. Photo: Billy Jupp

A packet of Nurofen Plus or Panadeine might soon cost more than $80, including a trip to the GP, under the Federal Government’s new plan to up-schedule current over-the-counter codeine pain medication.

Last week, deputy premier John Barilaro joined NSW Pharmacy Guild president David Heffernan to announce that the National Party will be backing a reversal on the upscheduling, particularly in rural and regional areas of the state.

While the new legislation, commencing February 1, will require a prescription for all medication containing codeine, the Pharmacy Guild is lobbying for a “prescription only – except when” system, while maintaining their real time Medsassist statewide monitoring.

That system would allow the pharmacist to make exceptions for people who need extra pain relief for acute problems such as tooth aches, sprains, period pain, broken fingers, and other ailments that don’t truly require a trip to the GP or emergency department.

“The upscheduling will increase cost and inconvenience for patients who currently use over-the-counter medicines safely and appropriately – It will clog up doctors’ surgeries while offering no solution to the problem of doctor shopping – the overwhelming cause of codeine-related deaths in Australia,” Mr Heffernan said.

In some rural areas a GP appointment has to be made weeks in advance, while there are fears that already over-burdened emergency departments will further congest.

Locally, Gunnedah and Narrabri Pharmacist Karen Carter agrees.

“Emergency department’s and GP’s are already stretched,” Mrs Carter said.

“Up-scheduling will increase the cost of Medicare due to more GP visits. A $6 dollar sale becomes at least a $36 Medicare cost. The inconvenience will increase costs to patients who go to private GP's with much higher out of pocket costs.”