New Zealand’s medicines regulator has recommended the country fall in line with Australia’s new codeine restrictions, and pharmaceutical companies are backing the decision.

Yesterday, Medsafe recommended that all medications containing codeine be only available via prescription, but held back from suggesting a timeframe for how it should be implemented.

Dual-listed AFT Pharmaceuticals (ASX:AFP) is now expecting a lift in sales for its non-codeine painkiller Maxigesic.

“In the 12 months after Australia rescheduled codeine containing medicines in 2018, sales of Maxigesic tablets increased by more than 50 per cent,” AFT managing director Dr Hartley Atkinson said.

Atkinson said AFT expected the decision to drive an increase in Maxigesic sales, the impact of which may begin to be felt in fiscal 2021.


The non-codeine pain management sector is growing as countries follow the US’s stance on opioid-based painkillers.

Medical Developments (ASX:MVP) is commercialising its Penthrox “green whistle” emergency pain relief device and methoxyflurane drug and Mayne Pharma (ASX:MYX) currently has its drug Kapanol listed on Australia’s pharmaceutical benefits scheme for use in chronic severe disabling pain in patients unresponsive to non-opioid analgesics.

Paradigm (ASX:PAR) has found the drug pentosan polysulfate sodium has had a “clinically and statistically meaningful” reduction in knee pain, raising hopes that PPS may be used as an alternative to opioids.

And pain management is a key area the medical cannabis fraternity is trying to tap, although until now clinical data supporting this application has been limited.

Companies such as Zelira (formerly Zelda, ASX:ZLD) and Medlab Clinical (ASX:MDC) are running clinical trials to secure data that supports medical cannabis as a painkiller.

Medsafe had been considering three options: to do nothing, follow Australia’s lead, or to reclassify codeine as prescription medicines in the case where the sole active ingredient was more than 15 mg per dose in a pack of more than three days supply.

It went with option b, with the proviso they could return to it in future if it wasn’t working.


In other ASX health news:

Apiam Animal Health Limited (ASX:AHX) has completed the acquisition of Grampians Animal Health for $4.65m.

SUDA Pharmaceuticals (ASX:SUD) and Spanish pharma company Laboratorios Ordesa are cooperating to develop a major consumer product for the paediatric market potentially using Suda’s OroMist mouth spray technology. The feasibility study will be fully funded by Ordesa and SUDA will receive an upfront option fee of $US100,000 ($140,000).

Imugene (ASX:IMU) has appointed surgeon-scientist Dr Rebecca Auer to its new oncolytic virotherapy (OV) advisory board. OVs are designed to selectively kill tumour cells while at the same time activating the immune system against them.