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Here's why Australia wants to widen restrictions on common painkillers

Photo: Getty Images/ Christopher Furlong.

Australia’s increasing use of painkillers such as Nurofen and Panadeine has forced the medical community to develop new innovative brands of painkillers.

Research from the Victorian Department of Health has shown that the prescription of opioids, a pain relieving substance, has increased from less than 100 kilograms in 1991 to well over 2,000 kilograms in 2012.

Popular over-the-counter painkillers sold to millions of Australians including Codral Original Cold and Flu tablets, Aspalgin Soluble tablets and another 150 codeine products could soon be prescription-only due to addiction and fatal overuse, SMH reports.

In 2013, prescription drugs caused or contributed to the deaths of 310 of the 374 people to die in Victoria from drug overdoses.

This is not the first time Australia has tried to make common painkillers a prescription-only drug. In 2012, senior health officials warned of a silent epidemic as more patients were being admitted to emergency rooms following sustained use of painkillers.

The risks of internal bleeding, gastrointenstinal damage and codeine addiction with common painkillers have prompted scientists in Australia to develop new lines of painkillers. In a recent study, the University of Queensland has found that spider venom could lead to new, nonaddictive treatments for chronic pain.

“Importantly, of the seven promising peptides we identified, we discovered one that had the right structure, stability and potency to form the basis of a future painkiller,” said Professor Glenn King from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

“Our next step is to continue exploring the clinical potential of these peptides – and the ones we are still yet to find – in the hope of developing better treatments for the one in five Australians living with persistent pain.”

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