More than 300 pharmacies across New Zealand are offering free pain checks following changes to the way people can access some pain relief medicines.
MedSafe, the government regulator of therapeutic products in New Zealand, recently introduced new regulations through which medicines containing codeine – an opiate used to treat strong pain and present in products such as Panadeine and Nurofen Plus – is now only available through a prescription from a doctor.
The change came into effect on November 5 and is aimed at reducing the misuse and abuse of codeine and the number of overdose deaths linked to it.
A spokesperson for Green Cross Health, who operate over 360 Unichem and Life Pharmacies across New Zealand, says a lot of people who may have previously purchased codeine-based medicines may be left looking for alternatives to help manage strong or chronic pain.
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Unichem and Life pharmacies are offering free in-store pain checks until December 6. "We want to talk to anyone suffering from pain, especially those who may have previously been taking codeine-based products, so we can help them find an alternative," she says.
Among the codeine-based products no longer available over the counter are Panadeine, Panadeine Extra, Mersyndol, Nurofen Plus, Panafen Plus and Ibucode Plus.
The list of pain relief alternatives still available without prescription include Paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Naproxen and Diclofenac and options such as topical rubs and liquid formulas.
The Green Cross spokesperson says Unichem and Life Pharmacy pharmacists are trained to help people find the most appropriate and effective medicine.
"They take into account a range of factors from the type of pain, how long it's been present, what triggers it and what has or hasn't worked in the past," she says. "There's always a small risk when self-selecting a medicine that it might not be compatible with other medicines, vitamins or supplements you take or that you might end up unknowingly double dosing. A chat with a trained pharmacist helps reduce this risk."
To help people determine what is best for them all Unichem and Life Pharmacies are offering the free pain checks. The Pharmacy team will take customers through a pain assessment and recommend the best course of treatment along with a personalised pain management plan – or refer them to another health professional if required.
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