From 1 February 2018 medicines containing codeine will only be available by prescription. These medications are used to treat pain. Codeine is also sometimes used in cold and flu medicines.
If you live in a rural or remote area and you think that this change will affect you, it’s a good idea to know your options and plan ahead.
Getting advice and assistance
For short-term pain, cough or colds
Most people should be able to manage their short-term (acute) pain or cough and cold symptoms with other medicines from the chemist that don't contain codeine.
Talk to a pharmacist
You can get advice on what short-term pain medication is best for you by going to a chemist and talking to the pharmacist.
For longer term pain
If you normally take medicines with codeine for ongoing (chronic) pain you should talk to a health practitioner about your pain management options. Codeine is only recommended for a maximum of three days and is not considered an effective treatment for chronic pain.
The best place to get advice and assistance will depend on the health services available in your area and your personal preference.
Visit your health practitioner
If you have access to a local GP, they can provide information and help with managing your pain and write you a prescription if you need one. If they feel you need extra help to manage chronic pain they might refer you to see a specialist – either in person or through a service called Telehealth that is used to deliver health services across Australia without the need for travel.
Go to a community health centre or remote health service
If you don’t have a local GP, you can get advice and help at a community health centre or a remote health service in your area. Remote area nurses and registered nurses can also provide advice and, in some areas, they can write prescriptions.
Visit your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Service
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Medical services can provide holistic and culturally appropriate advice and care on all health and medical issues including pain management.
Get free advice over the phone
For free health advice 24 hours, 7 days a week, you can call Healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222. Healthdirect can provide you with advice on all health topics, including pain management. They can also help you locate your nearest health services and chemists.
Useful contact information
For 24-hour, free health advice and information, nationwide
Call Healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 or visit www.healthdirect.gov.au
For information on community health centres and remote health services in your area
ACT – Call 13 2281
NSW – Call (02) 9391 9000
NT – Call (08) 8999 5511
Qld – Call 13 43 25 84 or (07) 3234 0111
SA – Call (08) 8226 6000
Tas - Call 1300 135 513
WA – Call (08) 9222 4222
Vic – Call 1300 650 172
For information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Medical Services in your area
Visit the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website at www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au
For information about codeine, changes to availability and management of chronic pain
Visit the Therapeutic Goods Administration Codeine Information Hub at www.tga.gov.au/codeine-info-hub
Read the NPS MedicineWise facts on codeine at www.nps.org.au/medical-info/consumer-info/medicines-with-codeine-what-you-need-to-know
Check out Real Relief to find out more about managing chronic pain www.realrelief.org.au