Pharmacists have “definitely” noticed people going from “place-to-place” in search of products containing codeine in the past couple of months.
Residents will be unable to purchase medications containing codeine unless they have a doctor’s prescription when new laws come into effect on February 1.
Some of those products include Nurofen Plus, Panadeine Forte, Mersyndol and Codral – a cold and flu relief tablet.
Michelle Grae of David Wilson’s Chemist in Campbelltown said she had noticed customers attempting to stockpile on products containing codeine.
“We have restrictions in place for codeine products anyway but they (people who are stockpiling) are just going from place to place,” she said.
A spokeswoman at Priceline Pharmacy Ingleburn said she had “definitely noticed people stocking up in the last couple of weeks”.
She believe protocols in place monitoring the sale of pseudoephedrine could have also worked for products containing codeine.
Pharmacists use a database called projectstop.com to track the the use of pseudoephedrine – a component used for methamphetamine – to prevent the products falling into the wrong hands.
Pharmacists enter details of a customer’s driver’s licence or proof of age card into a database operated by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, which provides a history of previous purchases.
The pharmacist will then decide whether or not the customer has a genuine need for the product and if they will be sold the medication.
The database also records whether or not the sale was made.
Macarthur MP and paediatrician Dr Michael Freelander said there was “no doubt” codeine addiction had reached an “epidemic” level.
While he said the issue needed to be addressed, he believed the federal government – which introduced the changes – could have explored other options including reducing the number of tablets per packet.
He feared the changes would make it more difficult to access GP services and would heap more pressure on emergency departments already bursting at the seams.
“People will now be forced to wait in the emergency department or GP offices,” he said.
“And there will also be pressure on chemists to give medication without prescriptions.”
Dr Freelander was critical of the government’s plan and said there had not been enough education or information released to the public about the changes.
The decision was made by federal Health Minster Greg Hunt following consultation with the Therapeutic Goods Administration.