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PHO impact seen in subsidised prescribing jump

Media release

PHO impact seen in subsidised prescribing jump

The number of prescriptions subsidised by the Government has climbed to an all-time high, figures from drug-funding agency PHARMAC show.

Figures published in PHARMAC’s 2005 Annual Review, released today, show the number of subsidised prescriptions grew to 27.08 million for the 2005 financial year, the equivalent of about eight prescriptions for every New Zealander. This was a 10.7% increase on the 24.4 million prescriptions subsidised in 2004, and the highest number of subsidised prescriptions recorded since PHARMAC’s establishment in 1993.

PHARMAC Chief Executive Wayne McNee says New Zealanders already had a high proportion of their medicines subsidised by the Government – about 80 percent – and these figures mean an even higher percentage of medicines prescribed are being Government-funded than in previous years.

Wayne McNee says three main factors drove the growth in prescribing – the impact of medicines access policies through the PHO framework, the 25 new investments made by PHARMAC during the year and underlying growth in pharmaceutical prescribing.

“Usually we expect to see volumes growing by about 4 to 5 percent per annum, but in the past year prescribing growth has been more than double that rate,” Wayne McNee says.

“While there is still underlying growth in prescribing volume, we are also seeing data that suggests the introduction of PHOs is leading to more people having their prescriptions subsidised by the Government.

“For example, there was a considerable increase in subsidised prescriptions for drugs like paracetamol, aspirin and some of the less expensive ACE Inhibitors such as cilazapril and quinapril.

“Some of these products are cardio-protective and used by many patients aged over 65, the same group targeted by the initial roll-out of the PHOs. This suggests that, rather than an increase in prescribing overall, what we are seeing is more people having their prescriptions subsidised by the Government.”

Paracetamol continues to be the most widely-prescribed drug in New Zealand, accounting for some 1.36 million prescriptions in 2005. Cholesterol-lowering simvastatin (Lipex) was the second-most prescribed drug with 945,783 prescriptions, surpassing the anti-ulcer and heartburn drug omeprazole (Losec) on 861,652 prescriptions.

Antibiotics filled the next two places followed by treatments for asthma (salbutamol and fluticasone) and raised blood pressure (metoprolol, quinapril and frusemide).

Top 10 most prescribed medicines

Rank Medicine Treatment for Prescription no.
1. Paracetamol Pain 1,362,531
2. Simvastatin Raised cholesterol 945,783
3. Omeprazole Reflux/heartburn/ulcers 861,652
4. Amoxycillin Bacterial infections 732,711
5. Amoxycillin with clavulanic acid Bacterial infections 724,440
6. Salbutamol Asthma symptoms 616,608
7. Metoprolol Succinate Raised blood pressure 496,776
8. Quinapril Raised blood pressure 403,191
9. Fluticasone Asthma prevention 402,400
10. Frusemide Raised blood pressure 402,220


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