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AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (WA)
State Health Minister Roger Cook is putting the health of West Australians at risk by joining a push to reverse the decision to make codeine products available by script only, the Australian Medical Association (WA) said today.
Mr Cook signed a letter with all other state health ministers, with the exception of South Australia, urging Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to reverse the Therapeutic Drugs Administration decision to make codeine products available only by script in order to minimise the risk of addiction and overdose.
AMA (WA) President Dr Omar Khorshid said he was extremely disappointed that Mr Cook had put the lobbying and economic power of pharmacists before the health of West Australians. “The minister told me and others very recently that he was supportive of the TGA decision,” Dr Khorshid said.
“His decision to backflip on this issue and to cravenly support the Pharmacy Guild severely weakens this planned move. It directly opposes good health policy and will jeopardise the health of West Australians.
“The decision by the TGA was a good one, based on scientific evidence and years of research into the use and abuse of codeine.
“Codeine is dangerous, regularly abused and involved in many drug-related deaths. It is appropriate that the supply of a drug that is so addictive and so easily abused has much stricter regulations.
“The TGA recommendation was a timely one that will save many lives and result in the use of other pain management drugs that are not only safer, but more effective. “The TGA decision was also endorsed at the time by health professionals and was the subject of extensive consultation and consideration.
“The Minister has been drawn into a poor political decision that he will regret when it inevitably leads to the death of West Australians,” he said.
Dr Khorshid said it was now vital that the Federal Health Minister rejected the push by state governments to block the TGA changes to over-the-counter availability of codeine. “Health Minister Greg Hunt is now in the position of being able to endorse a carefully researched and considered TGA recommendation.
“He can demonstrate his independence and his refusal to be pushed around by powerful pharmacy interests and a bunch of weak state health ministers unable to stand up to them,” Dr Khorshid said.