News of Zealand

News of Zealand: "Prescription-Only Codeine Won't Stop Abuse"

Pharmacists lobby against proposal to restrict painkiller sales, plus coalition talks still going a week after Winston Peters' supposed deadline and warnings over wi-fi use.
October 17, 2017, 9:19pm
Image via Shutterstock.

Everything you need to know about the world this morning, curated by 95bFM and VICE NZ.


Pharmacists Lobby Against Proposal to Make Codeine Prescription-only
Pharmacists are lobbying against Medsafe's proposal to make over-the-counter painkillers containing codeine prescription-only. The Medicines Classification Committee has sought submissions since May, and many pharmacists have submitted saying they are strongly against the idea. Pharmacists believe the restriction would fill up medical centres that are already strained. Julie Kilkelly, a Greymouth pharmacist said that "to have to go to a GP to get a relatively simple analgesic is going to be time consuming and a pressure on a limited resource here" Kilkelly added that only a small minority of people are abusing codeine, and most users are in genuine need of readily available pain relief. Whangarei pharmacist Shane Heswell said the issue is similar to when pseudoephedrine was made available only by prescription in 2011 and the change had little mitigation on P abuse. Kilkelly suggested a centralised nationwide system for logging codeine purchases which required identification. This would prevent the minority causing inaccessibility for the majority of users who are in pain. The Medicines Classification Committee will make its decision in November.

Winston Peters Meets With National and Labour leaders
New Zealand First party leader Winston Peters has met with both Bill English and Jacinda Ardern following a two-day meeting with the party caucus and board. Peters says there is no timeframe for the announcement of the new government, despite previously saying that a decision would be made by last Thursday. The New Zealand First board have left Parliament, having come to what Peters says is a consensus on policy issues, but without deciding on whether to form a government with National or Labour. Peters adds there has been no discussion of possible ministerial roles or the way that a government would be formed.


Internet Safety Organisations Warn To Avoid Wi-Fi
Two internet safety organisations have issued warnings about current use of wi-fi in New Zealand. Cert NZ and Internet NZ have discovered a weakness that allows hackers to read data passing between wi-fi routers and devices including computers, mobile phones and smart TVs. However, Auckland University IT security expert Peter Gutmann says a large scale attack is highly unlikely. Gutmann told RNZ he was not terribly worried about it and that expecting people to shut off their Wi-Fi is unreasonable. There have been no attacks in New Zealand so far.

Problems With AT HOP Attributed to Kiwi Hub App
Weeks of problems on Auckland Transport's electronic travel card website have been linked with Kiwi Hub, a popular smartphone app. The app, which operates in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and helps users find public transport, was sending thousands of requests to AT's servers causing some credit card top ups to stall. The manager of the AT Hop group, Denise Verrall, says the security of the system was never breached, but urges users not to give their account details to third parties. The developer of the Kiwi Hub app has now disabled the feature on the app, saying he didn't realise it would cause trouble.

Staff Shortages at Auckland Hospital
Chronic staff shortages at Auckland City Hospital are leading to a lack of adequate care. One in eight full-time midwife positions at the hospital are unfilled, and one woman says she had to delay her birth because there weren't enough midwifes in the hospital. An independent midwife describes conditions in the birthing unit as unsafe, and dire. Dr Sue Fleming, the Director of Women's health at the hospital, says that patient safety is their highest priority, and that their staff provide an excellent standard of care despite being busy. A midwifery advisor at the College of Midwives says that this experience is not unusual, and that hospitals need to create better working environments with strong leadership.


Autistic Advocacy Network Calls for Diagnosis of Autism in Girls
The Autistic Advocacy Network has called for better diagnosis of autism in girls. They say Autism in girls often goes undetected compared to boys and causes major disruption to their lives. University of Auckland Senior Lecturer in Psychology Dr Angela Arnold-Saritepe spoke to bFM News and says the difference between male and female diagnoses is vastly different, and that "the sorts of social difficulties you often see in autism are often more noticeable in boys". She also says a major step forward on this issue is addressing the stigma around these conditions.


ISIS Capital Falls to US-backed Alliance
The Syrian Democratic Forces announced they have taken control of ISIS Capital city Raqqa. The US backed Syrian alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces have been fighting the Islamic State in the city since November, and took over the city after a final battle in a sports stadium. More troops are now being deployed in the city to clear landmines and uncover any sleeper cells. With the help of US-led coalition air strikes, weapons and special forces, SDF fighters have now driven IS out of more than 8,000 sq km of territory. Destroyed and depopulated, Raqqa faces an uncertain political future. The US and SDF have pledged to hand over the city to civilian rule, but the shape and political makeup of this civilian entity remain unclear. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Tuesday that at least 3,250 people had been killed in Raqqa in the past five months, among them 1,130 civilians.

Women Share Experience of Sexual Abuse
A flood of women on social media have shared their experiences with the hashtag 'Me Too', following revelations of sexual abuse in Hollywood. Actress Alyssa Milano instigated the trend, tweeting that women who have been sexually assaulted should reply with the 'Me Too' status to portray the magnitude of the problem. 650,000 tweets and over 12 million Facebook posts have been made with the hashtag to indicate experience with harassment. Fiona McNamara of Wellington's Sexual Abuse Prevention Network said the campaign was a powerful reminder that sexual abuse is a widespread problem. She said it was raising awareness about how the problem prevails in New Zealand, where 186,000 offences are recorded annually. McNamara added that this discussion is about overhauling an entire culture.

Catalonian Politicians Arrested
Members of the Catalonian government are accusing Madrid of destroying the chances of separation dialogue after recent political arrests. The separatist leadership in Catalonia are calling for silent protests at the offices of the central government in Barcelona after the arrests of Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, the leaders of the main citizens' movements. Prosecutors have accused Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Cuixart of leading protests on September 20 during which officers from the Spanish national police were trapped for hours inside a Catalan government building by thousands of demonstrators. Jordi Turull, spokesman of the Catalan government says the arrests are politically motivated and that "this isn't a matter of independence or not, but of democracy, of having political prisoners in the 21st century." Rafael Catalá, the Spanish justice minister, told a news conference Tuesday morning that the separatists have misrepresented the situation and that the two Catalan leaders could be described as "imprisoned politicians" but not as "political prisoners."

Federal Judge Blocks Trump Travel Ban
A federal judge in Hawaii has blocked enforcement of the latest travel restrictions put in place by the Trump administration nationwide. The ban was the latest of Trump's efforts to exclude entry to the United States from citizens of predominantly Muslim countries, and was due to come into effect today. The latest iteration excluded citizens from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea. The decision today means that the ban will not be able to be enforced anywhere in the country, except with respect to North Korea and Venezuela.

MI5 Head Warns of Intense Challenge from Terrorism
The Head of MI5 warns that the UK's intelligence services are facing an intense challenge from terrorism. Andrew Parker, head of MI5 says terror threats are becoming harder to detect and are becoming more frequent. Twenty attacks have been foiled by MI5 in the past four years, including seven in the last seven months—all related to Islamist terrorism. Speaking with the BBC, Parker adds that MI5 staff are personally and professionally affected when attacks get through, and that "They are constantly making tough professional judgements based on fragments of intelligence; pinpricks of light against a dark and shifting canvas." Parker says MI5 are currently undergoing 500 live operations involving 3,000 individuals involved in extremist activity in some way, and that the tempo of counter-terrorism operations was the highest he had seen in his 34-year career.

Reporting by Harry Willis, Mary-Margaret Slack, Reilly Hodson