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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

TGA decision on chronic pain impacting Australia’s most vulnerable

Health Industry Hub | March 17, 2023 |

Pharma News: Early last month the regulator made an interim decision not to upschedule modified release paracetamol, however they did recommend a reduction in the size of packs available in supermarkets which will impact those who rely on supermarkets for their pain relief.

The issue of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) constricting the purchase of paracetamol is not resolved yet, particularly for those in chronic pain on low incomes, living rurally or who are already marginalised.

Paracetamol is one of the most affordable and most widely used medications for the 3.4 million Australians managing their chronic pain, costing approximately $50 per month compared to medicinal cannabis which is ~$250 – $300 per month. Other therapies for more severe pain require GP or specialist prescriptions, attracting additional out-of-pocket costs.

“Painaustralia is very concerned that this pack size reduction will lead to an increase in the per tablet cost, hitting the lowest income and most rural people in pain the hardest,” Giulia Jones, CEO of Painaustralia said.

“For the 3.4 million people in Australia living with chronic pain, day in and day out, paracetamol can be a recommended management option which is affordable and accessible, while other treatments are out of reach for so many. Moving to allow packs of only 16, which is the TGA recommendation, will last only for two days for most consumers in this situation,” she added.

Painaustralia has made a submission to the TGA’s renewed round of consultation, on the interim decision making this point very clear.

“While Painaustralia supports the sensible recommendation to not upschedule paracetamol, place age restrictions to purchase or to limit the number of packets that can be bought at a supermarket or pharmacy, we are disappointed by the decision to reduce the available pack sizes of paracetamol available to Australians living with pain,” the organisation said in its submission.

The impacts on changes to the retail price of paracetamol due to these changes are yet to be established but it is expected that the cost of an individual tablet is likely to increase because packaging and shipping for each packet will cost the manufacturer the same as a larger pack.

The TGA’s interim decision to reduce pack sizes has been negatively received by consumers.

“We have a 100+ km round trip to the nearest shop. Small packages of anything are inconvenient bulk packaging of most things are better. There are people who have larger distances to travel and like us probably go to town either once a fortnight or less often. It’s bureaucrats who live in big cities and have no life experience outside those cities who make stupid rules that negatively impact those who live in the bush, especially those of us on below poverty line incomes,” said one consumer.

Ms Jones said the interim decision recommending not to upschedule modified release paracetamol is particularly sensible as the nation faces a GP access crisis, compounding the problems people in pain face and we hope the TGA takes the delegate’s advice on this matter. However, the recommendation to reduce pack sizes if accepted is going to come at a cost to those who can least afford this change.

“On every bus, in every office and across every suburb of Australia pain does not discriminate. One in five Australians over 25 live with pain. These people already cannot afford other treatments and now the little that they do have to get relief could become harder to get,” she stated.

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