Information for nurses and midwives: Changes to patient access for medicines containing codeine

Monday 19th February, 2018

From 1 February 2018, medicines containing codeine will no longer be available without a prescription. Nurses and midwives are well placed to discuss the changes to codeine access.

About the change in codeine access

Research shows that current over-the-counter low-dose (<30 mg) codeine-containing products offer little additional pain relief when compared to similar medicines without codeine. Codeine can be harmful. Health risks include tolerance, dependence, addiction, poisoning and, in high doses, even death. In addition, side effects of long term use of combination codeine medicines containing paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), are also potentially life threatening.

Prescribing by registered nurses and midwives

People will be able to access prescription medicines if and when they need them by consulting with a health practitioner with prescribing authority. Nurse practitioners and midwives with scheduled medicines endorsement are authorised prescribers and can prescribe codeine containing medicines when appropriate, consistent with their scope of practice. In some jurisdictions, registered nurses in rural and remote areas can supply codeine-containing medicines in specific circumstances, under protocol.