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Convenience, Flexibility In Dispensing Changes

Convenience, Flexibility In Dispensing Changes

More people will have the convenience of being able to get their prescriptions dispensed all-at-once from 1 October 2003, PHARMAC announced today.

The change will mean that for 71 percent of prescriptions, people will only have to visit their pharmacy once to pick up a prescription. This represents a partial return to the system that existed prior to 1996 and gives people who live in towns and cities the same convenience of dispensing that people in rural areas already enjoy.

Another significant feature is the flexibility for prescribers to choose more frequent dispensings if they decide their patient needs it.

PHARMAC asked the public for its views in a two-month consultation period from 30 March 2003 on its proposal to partially return to three-monthly, or all-at-once dispensing. The more than 2500 submissions received represents the largest response the government drug-funding agency has ever received to consultation.

PHARMAC Chief Executive Wayne McNee says the decision announced today reflects many of the comments received during consultation, and advice from the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee (PTAC) and Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC).

"The decision preserves the original rationale for the proposal, which was to release additional funding for District Health Boards to invest in other health services, and to enhance convenience for patients," Wayne McNee says.

"In addition, it gives flexibility and choice to prescribers to determine how frequently to have a medicine dispensed. This responds to comments made by clinicians, pharmacists and patient groups and allows decisions to be made between the prescriber and patient."

All the submissions received were carefully read and analysed, and PHARMAC sought extensive expert independent medical advice to determine which medicines would continue to be dispensed monthly.

A number of modifications have been made to the proposal in response to consultation:

* 71 percent of prescriptions will be able to be dispensed all-at-once, compared to the current 35 percent * 14 of the top 20 most prescribed medicines will be able to be dispensed all-at-once * medicines with high repeat collection rates are included, this will be especially helpful for people on long term medication for chronic conditions * More medicines for long-term conditions (heart conditions/arthritis etc) will be able to be dispensed all-at-once * Prescribers are able to choose more frequent dispensing * Increased savings for District Health Boards.

"This is an important decision for the health sector as a whole, as it will give District Health Boards $132 million over the next five years to reinvest in more healthcare, including more pharmaceuticals," Wayne McNee says.

"This is funding that had been used for medicine dispensing but can now be used to fund additional treatments and services including, if they wish, pharmacy services."

Wayne McNee says a number of issues raised in consultation have been shown to be unfounded, in particular the increased risk of poisoning from prescription medicines.

"We looked closely at information on reported poisonings, hospitalisations and suicides, and could find no link between the frequency of dispensings and rates of poisonings, hospitalisations or suicides," Wayne McNee says.

District Health Boards will consider other issues, such as access to pharmacy services and disposal of unused medicines.

PHARMAC will be publicising the change through information available to health professionals and patients, and through advertising. Information will be distributed before the change is implemented on 1 October.

PHARMAC is also working with pharmaceutical companies to ensure there is no interruption to medicine supply.

Wayne McNee says PHARMAC will review the new system within the first 12 months of its operation.

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