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Codeine: a done deal

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Upscheduling to go ahead on 1 February, after TGA didn’t receive any formal submission to delay, senior bureaucrat confirms

OTC codeine in Australia is set to become a memory with senior Department of Health bureaucrats revealing at parliamentary hearings that there is no indication that the measure will be rejected by state governments.

Nor have any formal submissions for delaying the move been received, according to Dr John Skerritt, Deputy Secretary of the department’s Health Products Regulation Group.

Speaking in late October at the Senate Community Affairs Committee Estimates hearing, Dr Skerritt said “we have to be responsive to a submission to delay the up-scheduling, and no such submission requesting a delay…. to the secretariat of the Medicines Scheduling Committee has been received”.

He said there had been “correspondence from some stakeholders, such as the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, early on that floated the possibility of delaying the date. The New South Wales Pharmaceutical Society has also emailed us…. but no formal submission has been received”.

In response to a question from Senator Lisa Singh (ALP, Tas) that “according to reports, several Liberal MPs are opposed to the change, and Minister Hunt told the Liberal party room that this is basically an issue for the states and territories”, Dr Skerritt said there was no indication that any of the states were opposing codeine upscheduling.

“We don’t have any indication from any states or territories that they’re going to do anything other than adopt by reference the Commonwealth’s decision,” he said.

Meanwhile, it was also revealed at the hearing that training and communication to pharmacists on the move being undertaken by the Guild and PSA had to date been done so without promised funding being received by these groups.

Senator Singh asked that “In September the Pharmaceutical Society confirmed that additional funding had been provided to both them and the Pharmacy Guild to undertake training and communication activities. How much was provided to each of those organisations?”

Responding, Dr Skerritt said: “No funding has yet been provided to them, because an agreement has not been finalised. The announcement in September was a figure in the early $200,000s, and that was to undertake communication activities to pharmacists.

“They’re reasonably well through the training but, like a lot of things, they have done it on faith, because they have not yet signed the contract”.

According to a release this week from Health Minister Greg Hunt, the Guild and PSA will receive $325,000 towards providing pharmacists with materials to assist consumers with the transition.

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