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Mental health drugs remain in New Zealand

Media Release Pharmac

New Zealanders will still have access to three mental health medicines now that the company supplying them has removed its threat of withdrawing them from the market.

After months of tense negotiations drug company Lundbeck Pharmaceuticals has reduced the prices on anti-depressant Cipramil, and its anti-psychotics Clopixol and Depixol.

Lundbeck will now supply the New Zealand market from its Australian office. New Zealanders will pay Australian prices for the anti-psychotics which are about 75% less than current prices.

PHARMAC General Manager Wayne McNee says it is very pleasing that Lundbeck has reached this decision, as PHARMAC was concerned that Lundbeck’s threat would make patients suffer.

“Obviously we were concerned that Lundbeck wasn’t willing to live up to its contractual obligations. But our major concern was for those patients on the anti-psychotics. We are now confident that the treatment of these patients will not be disrupted.”

The initial dispute was over the company refusing to lower the price of its anti-depressant, which it had originally agreed to. However when PHARMAC said it would look at litigation, Lundbeck threatened to take the drug off the market. The company also threatened to withdraw two unrelated anti-psychotic drugs from the market if litigation proceeded.

“It was very disappointing the company brought the two anti-psychotics into the equation as they weren’t even part of the issue in debate. It seemed Lundbeck had little regard for those patients who are on these treatments.”

He says the result is pleasing as supply will continue and the New Zealand taxpayer is now getting these two anti-psychotics at a reduced price.

However, Wayne McNee says PHARMAC remains wary about Lundbeck’s commitment to providing its anti-depressant to the New Zealand market, which it started to supply just 12 months ago.

“Lundbeck’s change of stance is good news but should not be seen as a guarantee of supply given its recent history of threats and broken promises,” cautions Wayne McNee.

The situation between PHARMAC and Lundbeck followed an agreement between PHARMAC and Douglas Pharmaceuticals to provide a generic fluoxetine for 60% less than taxpayers had been paying for anti-depressants.

Lundbeck, whose contract with PHARMAC required that it reduce the price of its anti-depressant Cipramil to match the new subsidy, initially agreed to accept the change. However, two months later, the company changed its position and announced it was leaving the NZ market and withdrawing Cipramil.

Wayne McNee says that the uncertainty of supply has been uncomfortable, and that throughout the dispute PHARMAC’s highest priority was to ensure that vulnerable patients on the anti-psychotics were not put in any danger.


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