Gunnedah pharmacists say making codeine-based medications prescription-only will make life difficult for locals.
From February 1, common painkillers containing codeine will not be sold over-the-counter in Gunnedah Discount Drug Store or Karen Carter Chemist.
Medications like Nurofen Plus, Panadeine and Codral cold tablets will be affected by the Australia-wide change, which comes as Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed 68 per cent of the 668 overdose deaths in 2013 were related to pharmaceutical opioids.
Gunnedah pharmacists Karen Carter and Annette Osmond are both part of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, which was lobbying to stop the change.
The pharmacists said they were well set-up to keep track of clients’ purchase of codeine-based medications using “real-time monitoring”.
“I think pharmacists are trained to know whether it’s a short-term thing,” Ms Carter said.
“I think pharmacists have been able to do it quite well with this real-time monitoring.”
They said the purpose of codeine-based products was for “short-term use” and “acute pain” so it meant that people using it appropriately would be inconvenienced by the new rule.
Related story: Codeine-based medications to become prescription only
“It is going to be a little bit difficult for patients who are using it appropriately and who are using it for that short-term acute pain situation,” Ms Carter said.
“So it may mean some weekends we may have to send patients to the hospital for those things.”
Both pharmacists said the change in regulations will put extra pressure on the town’s doctors who are already struggling to meet the demand.
“It is going to be quite difficult [for patients] because it is very hard to get into the doctor’s at the moment,” Ms Carter said.
Ms Osmond said it also presented a problem for people who can’t take anti-inflammatories.
“The problem is now we’re getting people wanting to go on anti-inflammatory and paracetamol products but some people can’t take the anti-inflammatory,” she said.
“I’m just concerned there are going to be a lot of people taking ibuprofen and anti-inflammatories when they've got other diseases they shouldn’t be taking it with.”
Both pharmacies said people with “chronic pain” should see a doctor.