News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


Medicine use continues to rise

Medicine use continues to rise

New Zealanders are taking more medicine than ever before, according to figures just released by drug funding agency PHARMAC.

In the year to June 2003, New Zealand patients were written some 22.4 million prescriptions for subsidised medicine (accounting for about two-thirds of all prescribed medicines by value).

That’s a 5.3 percent increase from the previous year, and averages out at more than five prescriptions per year for every man, woman and child in New Zealand.

Figures published today in PHARMAC’s 2003 Annual Review show the overall rise in prescriptions has come while some medicines have seen a fall in use. These include hormone replacement therapy (down 38 percent) and some of the more commonly-prescribed antibiotics.

So are we a nation of pill-poppers? PHARMAC Chief Executive Wayne McNee says there may be overuse in some instances, but there are examples in the past year of large increases in some medicines where there has been under-use in the past, including for cholesterol-lowering statins.

“Growth in prescription volumes is one of the continuing issues PHARMAC faces,” Wayne McNee says. “It puts continuing pressure on the medicines bill and is one of the reasons why PHARMAC has to devote so much energy to reducing medicine cost.

“Volume growth is one of the major factors impacting on New Zealanders’ ability to access new subsidised medicines. If medicine volumes stayed as they are, the savings that are currently achieved could all be used to fund new medicines.”

Medicines to show significant rises included antidepressants, new generation antipsychotic medicines, and the stomach ulcer drugs known as proton pump inhibitors.

So what causes the ongoing increase in prescribing? Some causes include changes in population size and mix factors, such as ageing, and increases in prescribing as a result of decisions by PHARMAC. However, medicalisation and medicine advertising can also be drivers of prescribing patterns. [more]

2/Medicine use continues to rise

“It’s obvious from looking at the data that those medicines marketed and promoted most heavily are those more commonly prescribed, so there is clearly a correlation between medicine promotion and prescribing,” Wayne McNee says.

A related issue is inappropriately high doses of some medicines, including inhaled corticosteroids for asthma relief. PHARMAC launched a campaign in 2003 to address what clinicians agree are inappropriately high doses. Where PHARMAC decisions have led to an increase in usage, these have been accompanied by a careful analysis to show a positive impact on people’s health.

© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Reuben Moss' Property is Theft! & Kaitani at The Physics Room

Property is Theft! continues Moss’ interest in the contemporary urban environment as a space controlled by pulsing and unequal flows of capital and labour. Kaitani features work by the University of Canterbury Fijian Students Association and Kulimoe’anga Stone Maka. More>>

Handcrafted Form: Rare Treasures From Japan

This unique exhibition at Expressions Whirinaki represents 90 everyday objects made by contemporary Japanese artisans who employ various traditional craft techniques made in regional workshops. The works used in daily life are crafted from raw materials with techniques appropriate to bringing out the best of its medium, balancing ease of use with aesthetic appeal. More>>

Howard Davis Article: A Musical Axis - Brahms, Wagner, Sibelius

Brahms' warm and exquisitely subtle Symphony No. 3 in F major, Wagner's irrepressibly sentimental symphonic poem Siegfried Idyll, and Sibelius' chilling and immensely challenging Violin Concerto in D minor exemplify distinct stages of development in a tangled and convoluted series of skirmishes that came to define subsequent disputes about the nature of post-Romantic orchestral writing well into the following century. More>>

Scoop Review Of Books: A Pale Ghost Writer

Reviewed by Ruth Brassington, Richard Flanagan's new novel is about a novelist hastily ghost-writing the biography of a crook about to go to trial. The reader is kept on a cliff-edge, as the narrator tries to get blood out of his stone man. More>>

New Zealand Wars Commemoration: Witi Ihimaera's Sleeps Standing Moetū

The second of several articles to mark Rā Maumahara, remembering the New Zealand Land Wars. The first was a Q&A with Vincent O’Malley, author of The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800–2000. More>>




  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland