Government support for codeine transition welcomed by pharmacists

05 September, 2017

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) have welcomed the Government's decision to provide funding to support pharmacists around the upscheduling of pain relief medicines containing codeine leading up to 1 February 2018 and beyond.

The Federal Government support, signed off by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt this week, will allow the Guild and PSA to develop and deliver education, training, information and communications for community pharmacies, staff and patients nationally to enable a smooth transition to the upscheduling of codeine.

Hunt confirmed to the Guild and PSA that the Government will provide funding for training of pharmacists and pharmacy assistants, including continuing professional development accredited online modules and videos using subject-matter experts. Further funds will be available for communication materials and resources for consumers, pharmacists and other health professionals.

Hunt said the upscheduling of codeine will be a significant change that will have an impact on consumers. He said the communication challenges required a concerted effort by all stakeholders, with a clear need for focus on timely and consistent messages.

Both the Guild and PSA are committed to ensuring that community pharmacies and the pharmacist profession have rigorous, clinically-safe and patient-focused solutions in place to enable this change, which will have an impact on an estimated one million patients in 2018.

To support community pharmacies with this major transition, PSA and the Guild will collaborate to develop a comprehensive training package which includes five online modules encompassing protocols and procedures for pharmacists and pharmacy staff.  Communication activities are also proposed to support community pharmacies to transition from codeine towards a broader 'pain management' approach, and to enable them to inform and support their patients.

The two organisations will ensure that the materials that are developed are of a high standard (the training will be accredited) and that they are distributed and made available across the community pharmacy network with strong encouragement by the Guild and the PSA that they be taken up and used.

There is now a short timeframe to support a very large number of patients in this transition.  A proportion of these patients are likely to have broader health issues, necessitating individual support and referral to other health professionals, including GPs and pain management specialists.

The National President of the Guild, George Tambassis, said: "It is vitally important that community pharmacies have the resources to communicate directly with patients, ensuring that they are following the most appropriate clinical pathways to meet their pain management needs and minimising the number of unnecessary GP, emergency department and after-hours home doctor visits."

PSA National President Dr Shane Jackson, said: "This is a very positive and welcome contribution by the Government. The package will enable community pharmacists and other pharmacy staff across Australia to support patients in this significant transition in the coming months."

PSA and the Guild look forward to working closely with the Department Health and the Nationally Coordinated Codeine Implementation Working Group on the development of clinical protocols, standards and guidelines as well as associated education and support to ensure a smooth and consistent approach to the upscheduling of codeine containing medicines by 1 February 2018.