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New access to medications a breath of fresh air

Media Release

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of NZ (Inc.)

26 July 2006

New access to asthma medications a breath of fresh air

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation welcomes Pharmac’s announcement that access to asthma medication in New Zealand is to be improved.

Pharmac has agreed to subsidise the funding of the combination inhaler Seretide as well as Symbicort. Combination inhalers combine both preventer and symptom controller medication in one inhaler device, and reduce the need for multiple inhaler use for people with moderate to severe asthma.

In addition, Pharmac is providing easier access to the long acting inhalers Serevent and Oxis by relaxing the subsidy rules. The long acting agents help to provide relief of asthma symptoms for up to 10 hours and are taken twice a day.

Professor Robin Taylor, Medical Director of the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation, says

“After a long period of waiting, the availability of asthma medicines is now in line with international guidelines established in the late 1990s. The new changes to asthma medication access from 1 August 2006 are extremely positive and will benefit people with moderate to severe asthma.”

However Professor Taylor sounds a note of caution saying

“While this liberalisation is welcomed, all patients and their GPs need to be aware that long acting reliever medications must be taken in conjunction with inhaled cortico-steroids (preventer medication). The use of combination products can reduce the small but important risk of paradoxically WORSENING asthma which sometimes occurs with long-acting agents. It is also important that GPs check the way patients are using their medication to ensure that dosages are being taken as intended. Any patient requiring frequent "reliever"medication should be considered "at risk" and the problem is not solved simply by switching to long acting medication. Adequate preventer treatment is essential.”


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