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Pharmac Thinks Small In Latest Tender List

Preserving subsidised access to a number of very small volume products and the return of innovator drugs to full funding on the Pharmaceutical Schedule are features of the latest list of sole supply contracts awarded under the PHARMAC tender.

PHARMAC has approved three-year sole supply contracts for a further 72 presentations of pharmaceuticals, involving 49 chemicals. Features of the latest list include:

* The guaranteed supply of a number of small-volume pharmaceuticals
* The return of branded `innovator' medicines to the Pharmaceutical Schedule
* Savings of more than $3 million over three years.

PHARMAC Medical Director Peter Moodie says the list demonstrates how the PHARMAC tender can be used for more than the price reductions it is usually associated with, in particular by protecting supply of the small-volume drugs.

The contracts require the pharmaceutical companies to supply these products until at least 2005.

"PHARMAC recognises the importance of continuing to subsidise these products, even when, in some cases, it is costing a little more to do so. Some of these are tiny, niche market drugs, in one case involving just $12 of the $528 million pharmaceutical budget," Peter Moodie says.

"They may be small products but they fill important roles in the Pharmaceutical Schedule, they maintain important choice for clinicians, and these approvals will allow us to keep them available under subsidy."

Two of the smallest-volume products are hospital antibiotics, cefuroxime, which accounted for just two subsidised units last year at a cost of $12, and ceftriaxone, which required just $88 of the pharmaceutical budget.

Folic acid, a treatment for blood disorders and a preventive for spinal tube defects in foetuses, and Merbentyl, an antispasmodic for gastric problems, are two products PHARMAC will be paying slightly more for in the current list.

Because of the decision to award cost-neutral contracts on some chemicals, or even pay slightly more, total savings from this list are a modest $3.1 million over three years.

However, there are still significant savings on individual drugs, including about $430,000 on the anti-epileptic clonazepam, $430,000 on the anti-depressant nortriptyline and more than $300,000 for 500mg paracetamol tablets.

PHARMAC is considering sole supply tenders for over 800 line items already listed on the Pharmaceutical Schedule, and further announcements will be made in the coming months.

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