The national ban on over-the-counter codeine that took effect last Thursday has been labelled a step in the right direction by the state’s largest organisation representing doctors.
Australian Medical Association Victoria president Lorraine Baker said products containing codeine had the potential to do more harm than good.
“Over-the-counter codeine products contain a low dosage … but can easily be abused,” Dr Baker said. “Misuse of codeine products has caused considerable problems within the community and the fact that people now need to see a doctor to access it is a good thing.”
Concerns have been raised about the accessibility of the drug to those suffering from chronic pain.
But Dr Baker said there were better treatment options available.
“The fact is that ongoing pain should be assessed by a doctor,” she said.
“A doctor is best placed to diagnose the cause of pain and from there, prescribe a number of different treatments.”
There were initial fears that the need to attend a doctor’s clinic to obtain a prescription would put further strain on the already overworked general practitioners.
But Deer Park Doctors Clinic director Niresh Madhanpall said those concerns were overstated.
“We don’t actually know the exact number of people buying these products and it could cause strain on small practices, but it’s unlikely that we’ll see a rush of people coming in,” Dr Madhanpall said.
While the ban might be an inconvenience to some members of the community at first, Dr Madhanpall said it was a starting point to protecting the vulnerable.
“This move helps raise awareness that codeine over-the-counter is a real problem and can easily be abused,” he said.
“It’s going to help a lot more people than it inconveniences and that’s what we’re meant to be doing.”