"Serious misuse" of codeine products in Australia costly burden on taxpayers: research

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, September 19, 2017
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CANBERRA, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- The "serious misuse" of "over-the-counter" codeine combination medications is proving to be a costly burden on Australia's taxpayers, according to the results of a five-year study which was published on Tuesday.

A team from the University of South Australia's (UniSA) School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, led by Dr Jacinta Johnson, closely analysed 99 hospital admissions stemming from over-the-counter, codeine-based medications over five years.

The team found that 70 percent of cases involved the excessive consumption of ibuprofen-codeine products, 20 percent involved paracetamol-codeine products, while around 9.4 percent used both.

In a media release on Tuesday, Dr Johnson said the availability of strong and addictive codeine painkiller combinations -- such as codeine with paracetamol or codeine with ibuprofen -- was eating up valuable hospital resources and costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

She added that some admissions were the result of the patient having taken up to 90 tablets in a day. The average across the 99 cases was 28 pills, which was still almost five times the recommended daily dose.

"Apart from serious health issues relating to misuse of these over-the-counter painkillers, data shows us that lower doses of codeine found in OTC combination products don't actually provide any additional pain relief," Johnson said.

"There is no clear evidence that taking a low dose of codeine in combination with paracetamol or ibuprofen is any better than just taking the single-ingredient products without the codeine."

She said that on average, each hospital admission cost taxpayers up to 10,000 Australian dollars (8,000 U.S. dollars), and said the study should vindicate the Therapeutic Goods Administration's decision to make codeine-based medications available only through prescription from Feb. 1, 2018.

"When the Therapeutic Goods Administration announced its decision to reschedule all low dose combination analgesics containing codeine (CACC) preparations to prescription-only, there were some arguments made against the move," Johnson said on Tuesday.

"It is possible that doctor visits will spike, adding costs to (Australia's universal healthcare program), but that remains to be seen." Enditem

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