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Regulations of topical anaesthetics in Australia

The use of Topical Anaesthetics in Australia is regulated nationally by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and in South Australia under the Controlled Substance Act 1984 (the Act). Topical anaesthetics in Australia fall into the category of Scheduled Medicines and therefore specific restrictions on their sale apply.

Tattoo artists and laser technicians are not allowed to sell or supply any scheduled medicine to clients.

If you get caught selling topical anaesthetics in Australia illegally you will get slapped with a hefty fine of up to $10,000 and face possible jail time.Many other European countries have more relaxed regulations around topical anaesthetics and are able to sell high strength numbing creams without a prescription. It can be tempting to purchase these stronger topical anaesthetics from online sellers but doing so could get you in trouble should your client react badly or if your premises is inspected.

Classifications of different Topical Anaesthetics in Australia

Schedule 2

Schedule 2 medicines are available for over the counter purchase in a pharmacy.

Topical anaesthetics in Australia that contain between 2% and 10% lidocaine such as Emla & Nummit both fall into this category.

Schedule 4

These medicines are available from a pharmacist only by prescription from a doctor.

Topical anaesthetics in Australia with more than 10% lidocaine (lignocaine) are Schedule 4 medicines and are only available by prescription.

Differences Between Types of Topical Anaesthetics in Australia

There are three varying factors that effect the efficiency of topical anaesthetics

1 – the concentration of the numbing agent

2 – the base of the solution

3 – the type of numbing agents

The base of the topical anaesthetic can be just as important as the type of numbing agent used. The base can be varied to suit the application needs. In some cases you may want a thicker base so the application is more precise around sensitive areas, or you may want a thinner gel base to reapply to brows during the treatment. This is a factor which cannot be controlled if you are using over the counter topical anaesthetics in Australia.

Lets look at the pro’s and cons of schedule 2 and schedule 4 topical anaesthetics in Australia

Schedule 2 : Over the counter

  • Able to be supplied without prescription  PRO
  • Less Concentrated. Takes 1 hour + for best effects CON
  • Contains ingredients that are dangerous for eyes CON
  • Thin viscosity that is hard to keep in place once applied CON

Schedule 4 : By Prescription

  • Faster numbing time of 25 minutes or less PRO
  • Needs to be arranged ahead of time CON
  • Safe for use around eyes PRO
  • Viscosity can be customised to preference PRO

Weighing up the pro’s and con’s, its pretty clear that schedule 2 over the counter topical anaesthetics are not the ideal choice. Not only is there a safety risk near the eyes, but you must also rely on the client to apply the anaesthetic properly.

So how can we offer our clients effective and safe numbing to ensure their comfort?

Option 1: The first option is that you ask your clients to purchase their own topical anaesthetic, by prescription, ahead of time. If you decide to do this we recommend that you ask them to bring it with them to the appointment. This way you know for sure that they have not purchased over-the-counter cream, and you can make sure it is applied to the right areas and in the right quantity.

Option 2: Find a compounding chemist nearby who you can form a working relationship with.

You can discuss your application needs with the pharmacist and they will be able to mix the appropriate topical anaesthetic for your clients. Compounding chemists have their own consultation forms and are able to prescribe and supply the anaesthetic to your clients. Ask your clients to complete the form when they make the appointment, and send it to your compound chemist. This option allows you greater control over the anaesthetic you are working with.  Here at SCHB we love working with Synergy Compounding Pharmacy.

To sum up:

  • Sale of topical anaesthetics in Australia is regulated for a reason – the clients safety is paramount
  • Do not buy topical anaesthetics from anywhere that is not authorised (pharmacy or compound chemist)
  • Topical anaesthetic brands are all different depending on the ingredients and ratios mixed
  • Pharmacists are your friends and can provide you with valuable information
  • Read and follow any instructions provided with the anaesthetic.
  • Observe carefully for any side effects or other contraindications after topical anaesthetic application and during procedures. Check in with your client to see if the anaesthetic is still working.
  • Keep up to date with changes in regulations and industry information. What was acceptable when you were trained may be different now or change in the future.
  • Do not use over the counter topical anaesthetics near the eye area, particularly Emla

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