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RANZCP supports tighter regulations on access to codeine-based products

10 July 2017

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) welcomes the Medicines Classification Committee (MCC) proposal to make access to medicines containing codeine prescription-only.

Codeine, which can be found in common pain relief products such as Panadeine and Nurofen Plus, can be a highly addictive substance, and if misused may be linked to a range of serious physical health problems including renal impairment, hepatotoxicity and hypokalaemia.

 ‘The RANZCP has significant concerns over the harm caused by deliberate misuse of codeine-based products.  People are also taking combinations of painkillers and are oblivious to the harm they may cause,’ RANZCP New Zealand National Committee Chair, Dr Mark Lawrence said.

‘It is our view that making these products prescription-only would significantly reduce the risk of abuse and dependence on codeine. We want to also intervene earlier and provide appropriate  treatment for those people who are at risk of developing dependency and making  painkillers available by prescription will help us to do this.

‘Currently in New Zealand there are few regulations around access to codeine-based products, which can be bought over the counter, without the need for identification or limitations on the frequency and number of purchases. This is doing little to protect the consumer from opioid abuse, misuse and dependence, and potentially toxic levels of paracetamol or ibuprofen.

‘The RANZCP has received reports from addiction psychiatrists that they are diagnosing and treating an increasing number of people who are presenting with dependencies on over the counter codeine-based products and we are concerned that this number may increase if more is not done to regulate the sale of these products,’ Dr Lawrence said.

In April 2017 the RANZCP made a submission to the Medicines Classification Committee in support of the tighter regulations around access to codeine-based products. The RANZCP emphasizes that a well-developed public health campaign is needed to educate the public about the harm associated with codeine-based products and the reasons behind the proposals.

To read the full submission see: Classification of codeine-containing medicines

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The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit