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New pain treatment subsidised for New Zealanders

Media Release

New pain treatment subsidised for New Zealanders

PHARMAC is further expanding the range of subsidised painkillers by subsidising a new drug, oxycodone.

Oxycodone is a strong opioid analgesic which is taken as a capsule (under the brand name OxyNorm) or as a long-acting tablet (Ocycontin). It can be used as an alternative to the traditional strong painkiller morphine and will be fully subsidised from 1 August 2005.

PHARMAC's medical director Dr Peter Moodie says the need for a wider range of painkillers had been identified by PHARMAC's analgesia advisory committee.

"We've taken this advice on board and responded to it by working to enhance the range of pain relief treatments," Dr Moodie says. "We think having a wider range of treatments such as oxycodone, fentanyl patches and gabapentin for neuropathic pain will produce better outcomes for patients and clinicians."

The listing of oxycodone follows decisions to improve the availability of products to treat severe pain. These have included:

- Listing fentanyl (Durogesic) patches

- Widening access to gabapentin (Neurontin) for neuropathic pain.

Dr Moodie says while he expects the decision to subsidise oxycodone to be welcomed by clinicians treating people with severe pain, it is unlikely to replace morphine as the preferred treatment for severe pain.

"Morphine is available in a number of forms and strengths and is trusted as an effective form of pain relief by patients and clinicians," Dr Moodie says. "Subsidising oxycodone won't change that, however it will provide a useful alternative which people will be able to turn to if, for some reason, they are unable to use morphine."

The decision will see oxycodone capsules and tablets subsidised in a range of dosage strengths. PHARMAC estimates that spending on oxycodone will be in the region of $5 million over the next three years.

[ends]

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