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NZ'ers May Die Needlessly From Heart Disease

Wednesday 31 August

More New Zealaders Will Die Needlessly From Heart Disease
If Access To Medicines Is Not Increased

Internationally renowned cardiologist and researcher Professor Harvey White today spoke out in support of the call for a far reaching review of how medicines are funded in New Zealand, saying that New Zealander’s death rate from heart disease will only get worse if urgent action is not taken to review our restrictive medicine funding policies.

He points to a report released today by international strategic advisors Castalia which says there is clear evidence that New Zealand’s restrictive policies on pharmaceutical purchasing have led to a significant problem of lack access to medicines for New Zealanders.

These restrictive policies have not only meant that New Zealanders are more disabled as a population but have led to a dramatic worsening of the health of the country.

“The report uses cardiovascular disease as an example. In the mid-eighties New Zealand had a death rate from heart disease which was 15% lower than that of Australia, but by the end of the nineties it had dramatically increased to a death rate of 15% higher.”

Professor White points to the lack of funding for medicines, heavily restricted access to medicines which could prevent or delay the onset of heart disease, and PHARMAC’s policy of switching patients from their stabilized medication to cheaper alternatives with scant regard for patient safety as significant contributors to the problem.

Dr White agrees with the report’s finding that restricting access to medicines is shifting costs to other areas of health care such as hospital stays, and expensive operations and the resulting loss of quality of life.

“The economic cost of heart disease is enormous. It’s our biggest killer of New Zealanders and medical practitioners are being forced to treat increasing numbers of patients with outmoded treatments.”

“New Zealand is a first world, developed country, and patients deserve first world treatments.”

The Castalia report also indicates that the restrictive policies championed by PHARMAC have a negative impact of the culture of healthcare provision in this country.

Professor White believes this is illustrated by the declining amount of biomedical research that is performed in New Zealand which has also suffered as a by product of the pharmaceutical spending policies resulting in pharmaceutical companies taking their research dollars elsewhere.

“What the Government fails to realize is that medical research and the companies that perform medical research need to be supported. Patients tend to do better from a health point of view when participating in clinical trials than compared to standard medical practice. Clinical trials allow doctors and nurses to participate in international collaborations that not only lead to medical advancement but also up skills the doctors and nurses involved.”

As Professor White point out 75% of the fall in coronary heart disease in the USA in the1980s was due not to primary prevention (diet and exercise etc) but to this medical advancement.


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