Fact sheet

Fact Check: Will the move to make codeine prescription-only save 100 lives a year?

Liberal Party of Australia Opioids Prescription medication

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt claimed up to 100 lives a year could be saved by making over-the-counter codeine products prescription-only. But Mr Hunt's claim doesn't stack up. There has not been any recent data to suggest that 100 Australians are dying every year from over-the-counter codeine products. The latest available data showed that, on average, about 100 Australians were dying a year from all codeine products, both over-the-counter and prescription. Mr Hunt's claim comes from a Therapeutic Goods Administration estimate, which is based on an assumption that an increasing death rate seen in the early years of that research would have continued in the time since then. This is not accepted by experts consulted by Fact Check. In any case the study was unable to determine the source of the codeine involved in 60 per cent of the deaths. In the 40 per cent where the source could be determined, over-the-counter products were involved in 40 per cent of cases. That means over-the-counter codeine was only conclusively found in 16 per cent of all the deaths reported in the study, or 16 per year on average. It appears that Mr Hunt and the Therapeutic Goods Administration have used the study's findings to assume that over-the-counter products were involved in 40 per cent of all codeine-related deaths.
Verdict: Doesn't check out

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