Government support for codeine transition

The industry has welcomed the federal government’s funding support for pharmacists through the transition of up-scheduling pain-relief medicines containing codeine from February 2018.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed to the Pharmacy Guild and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australiathat 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 healthcare professionals.

The Guild and the PSA will collaborate to develop a comprehensive training package, which includes five online modules encompassing protocols and procedures for pharmacists and pharmacy staff.

“It’s vitally important that community pharmacies have the resources to communicate directly with patients, ensuring that they’re 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,” Guild National President George Tambassis said.

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.
Mr Hunt says the up-scheduling of codeine will be a significant change that will have an impact on consumers, and the communication challenges require a concerted effort from all stakeholders, with a clear need for focus on timely and consistent messages.

Both the Guild and PSA say they 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 affect an estimated one million patients in 2018.

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

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