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All medicines containing codeine to be prescription-only from November 5

All medicines containing codeine will be only available via prescription from early November, Medsafe has announced.

Codeine-containing medicines Nurofen Plus and Panadeine Extra. Source: Supplied

At the moment, such medicines are available over the counter at pharmacies. Codeine-only products are already only available on a prescription.

Some medicines combine codeine with other painkillers like ibuprofen or paracetamol, such as in Panadeine and Nurofen Plus.

From November 5, those codeine-containing medicines will only be available via a prescription in New Zealand, Medsafe group manager Chris James confirmed to 1 NEWS today.

"Medsafe have worked with industry and other stakeholders on this change," Mr James says, adding that further information will be published on the Metsafe website later.

"The new classification will be gazetted on 5 November 2020 and take immediate effect, all codeine and codeine-containing combination products will only be able to be supplied with a prescription. Codeine-only products are already prescription medicines."

The recommendation was made at the Medicines Classification Committee meeting last October, but wasn't officially confirmed until now.

At the time, the committee said there remains "an unmet need to access pain relief in pharmacy especially for people where non-steroidal anti-inflammatories were not appropriate". However that would still occur even if the codeine-containing medicines still remained over the counter, the committee says.

Codeine is an opioid painkiller and the changes come after similar rules came into force in Australia in 2018, aimed to reduce the number of overdose deaths linked to the drug.

Other opioids, including tramadol, morphine and oxycodone, already require a prescription.