Published: 22 October 2020



Codeine-containing medicines to be reclassified

21 October 2020

Medsafe has confirmed all codeine-containing medicines will be classified as prescription medicines from 5 November.

The Medicines Classification Committee meeting, held on 10 October 2019, recommended the change following a period of consultation and stakeholder feedback.

The change means codeine containing products will require a prescription.

In New Zealand, codeine-only products are already prescription medicines.

Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has also made the reclassification in February 2018.

Medicines Classification Committee chair Andi Shirtcliffe says the committee’s primary concern was access to pain management for all patients in New Zealand.

“People need access to knowledge and advice from their health professionals when choosing medication to treat their pain“.

This change means that if people require codeine-containing medicine, they will get the opportunity to get some advice from their health professional before making an informed choice. Often there are alternatives that are just as effective as medicines containing codeine.

New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 this year has delayed the implementation of this change.

Medsafe Group Manager Chris James says Medsafe has and will continue to work with industry representatives and other stakeholders on this change.

“I know during the planning for this change, the Medicines Classification Committee has listened to concerns about the availability of alternatives and potential for increased workloads on health professionals,” says Mr James.

“Reports from Australia suggest those concerns haven’t been realised. It’s important for people to know there are alternatives available for your pain management – both over the counter and as prescription medicines.”

Chris James says he wants to reassure the industry that Medsafe will be continuing to work with the sector ahead of the change as well as following it – to ensure any concerns are addressed.

Further Information on the Reclassification of Codeine can be found here

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