Codeine information hub

Changes to patient access for medicines containing codeine

5 March 2018

No therapeutic product is ever completely risk free. Some risks may be known when a medicine or medical device is first entered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). However, some information only comes to light after more people use the products.

What's changing and why?

What's changing?

From 1 February 2018, medicines containing codeine will no longer be available without a prescription.

A list of codeine-containing products previously available over-the-counter that will still be available with a prescription from 1 February 2018.

Products containing codeine derivatives, pholcodine, dextromethorphan, and dihydrocodeine are unaffected by the decision to up-schedule codeine.

Why is access to low-dose codeine-containing medicines changing?

Some Australians don't realise how much harm codeine can cause.

Codeine is an opioid drug closely related to morphine and, like morphine, is derived from opium poppies.

Research shows that current over-the-counter low-dose (<30 mg) medicines containing codeine for pain relief offer very little additional benefit when compared to similar medicines without codeine. The use of such medicines however, is associated with high health risks.

Codeine can cause opioid tolerance, dependence, addiction, poisoning and in high doses, even death. Regular use of medicines containing codeine, for example for chronic pain, has led to some consumers becoming addicted to codeine without realising it. The risks associated with codeine use are too high without oversight from a doctor. See 'Codeine use can be harmful' and 'How and where to get advice'.

Further information on the reasons for the change to codeine access can be found on the TGA website: Scheduling delegate's final decision: codeine, December 2016

Explore the links below to find out more.

Resources for the community

Resources for health professionals

All health professionals

General practitioners, specialists, nurse practitioners and other health professionals with prescribing authority

Emergency department health professionals

Nurses and midwives


Pharmacy assistants

Allied health professionals

Resources for wholesalers, sponsors and retail pharmacies