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Patient Choice for Asthma Inhalers

Media Release 17 May 2005

Subject: Pharmaceutical Society Recommends Patient Choice Remain Available for Asthma Inhalers

The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand Inc (the Society) welcomes Pharmac’s decision to review its plan to make Salamol the sole-supply salbutamol aerosol medicine for asthma patients.

“The Society recommends that both Ventolin and Salamol inhalers remain subsidised on the Pharmaceutical Schedule. It would be in the best interests of New Zealand’s asthmatics for them to continue to have a choice about which brand of their prescribed medicine they use”, said Mr McKone.

The Society is the professional body for pharmacists, responsible for providing policy, practice advice and continuing professional development for the pharmacy profession.

The Society says major questions about the product change have been raised by patients and Pharmac has a responsibility to address these issues before making a final decision.

“We have a serious issue here because Pharmac is proposing to introduce the cheaper Salamol in the face of patient feedback that it clogs and fails to perform as a reliever during an asthmatic attack,” says Society President Bernie McKone.

“We know patients are experiencing problems with Salamol inhalers clogging. The product’s supplier has responded by saying that regular cleaning is required to maintain the product. However, we know from practical experience that people don’t wash their inhalers regularly or properly. We must deal with practical reality, not theory, and, as pharmacists, we say asthmatics require absolute reliability from their inhaler.”

“The other human reality to acknowledge is that serious asthmatics know they must be prepared for an attack at any time. Fear that an inhaler will not work when required simply raises anxiety levels and that itself may precipitate an asthma attack.”

“Explanatory material to patients and pharmacists from Pharmac and the distributor has not allayed these concerns,” says Mr McKone. “Our patients tell us that they’re having difficulty using the Salamol inhalers and it’s making them angry and apprehensive.”

“Pharmacists have told the Society that this product change is not working for their patients and, as a professional body, we are duty-bound to warn that there are problems here which must be dealt with.”

Mr McKone takes issue with Pharmac’s claim that it is the pharmacists’ job to explain the changes to their patients. “The pharmacist’s role is to explain how to use the prescribed medicine appropriately, not to explain the reasons why Pharmac has forced patients to change from one product to another.”

“Pharmacists are having to spend a great deal of their professional time with distressed patients. Pharmac should remember it has a responsibility to implement medicine changes in such a way that allows every patient to be prepared and advised, and not frightened.”

“Pharmacists need reassurance that patient compliance aids will continue to be provided. A guaranteed continuing supply of the spacers used in conjunction with inhalers is essential”, says Mr McKone.


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