Stocks of a popular pain medication run dry in Australian pharmacies

Stocks of a widely prescribed codeine-containing pain medication, Panamax Co, are running low across the country with many pharmacies reporting that they can no longer fill their customer’s scripts.

Matthew Bellgrove from National Custom Compounding said that according to the Therapeutic Good Administration (TGA) new supplies of the drug were not expected to arrive in the country until at least May 1.

“It’s unusual that a medication as popular as Panamax would become unavailable for such a length of time,” Matthew said, “The company that makes the drug has indicated that they have been surprised by an unexpected increase in demand, and they’re struggling to keep up.”

Speaking to Pharmacy News, Anthony Tassone, President of the Pharmacy Guild Victoria said that according to wholesalers, generic paracetamol/codeine products were also at dangerously low levels.

“It’s possible that in the lead-up to the re-scheduling of codeine-containing medications earlier this year there may have been some panic-buying which has led to our current shortages. However that’s purely speculation, I don’t think anyone could pinpoint the exact reason with any certainty,” Matthew said.

Matthew said that while the drug’s unavailability was worrying for those who relied on it to manage their chronic pain, Australia’s network of compounding pharmacies may have the solution for those in greatest need.

“With a script from your doctor, National Custom Compounding, or any compounding chemist, can make up many kinds of pain medication exactly to order”, Matthew said, “Compounded medications are actively the same as commercially available products on the market, the only difference is they’re made from scratch right here in Australia.”

“Compounding chemists in Australia are regulated and we ensure high quality and safety standards set by the government,” Matthew said, “So when we make up a medication it’s accurate and effective.”

With codeine products coming off pharmacy shelves in February, Matthew said he was seeing an increasingly number of customers coming through his doors looking for gentler alternatives to managing their pain.

“There’s lot of solid scientific research behind the effectiveness of some new plant-based pain medication that we’re excited about, “Matthew said, “Palmitoyletanolaminde, or PEA for short, is one compound we receive a lot of enquiries about. Unlike other chronic pain medications, it doesn’t appear to leave the user with any serious side effects and the data shows it’s very effective in treating chronic pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatic pain, osteoarthritis, low-back pain and many kinds of neuropathic pain.”

“PEA may not be suitable for everyone, but the research is encouraging. I encourage anyone interested in PEA to talk to their integrative doctor about whether this compound could form part of their treatment plan. Your doctor is always best-placed to advise on your pain management options.”

Anyone wanting to know more about how a compounding chemist operates are asked to visit National Custom Compounding’s website, or call Matthew on 1300 731 755.