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PHARMAC to fund medicine for acute heart patients

Media release – 28 September, 2006


PHARMAC to fund medicine for acute heart patients

From 1 October 2006, people with acute heart problems will benefit from a decision by PHARMAC to subsidise clopidogrel, a drug that helps prevent blood clots developing in arteries.

Cardiovascular disease is New Zealand’s biggest health risk: this is another significant investment by PHARMAC in this important health area.

The drug will be available as a three month treatment following acute heart problems, such as heart attacks, as well as to people who cannot take aspirin. Aspirin is a blood-thinning agent that is widely used to help prevent clotting that can lead to cardiac events. Those people who are allergic to aspirin will be able to have continuing access to clopidogrel.

PHARMAC’s Medical Director Dr Peter Moodie says the decision to fund clopidogrel is a significant commitment to the care of New Zealanders with heart problems. It is estimated that up to 6000 people will benefit from the decision in the first year, with larger numbers benefiting in subsequent years.

“PHARMAC’s decision has two key aspects: prevention of further heart problems and providing aspirin-intolerant patients (that many people would ordinarily take) an affordable alternative option,” Dr Moodie says.

Clopidogrel is prescribed to those awaiting coronary surgery and to people who have suffered heart attacks or have unstable angina.

PHARMAC estimates the cost of funding clopidogrel to be up to $7 million per year.

Clopidogrel adds to the already wide range of medicines available to treat cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death and illness in New Zealand. Dr Moodie says while medicines such as clopidogrel are important for people who have experienced cardiac problems, people are able to reduce their risk of experiencing heart problems through measures such as stopping smoking, exercising more or eating better.

PHARMAC’s “One Heart Many Lives” programme, run in conjunction with DHBs, promotes awareness of cardiovascular disease lifestyle changes to reduce people’s risk. As the name suggests, everyone’s heart affects many more people through friendships, family and at work, underscoring the importance of prevention and effective treatment.

ENDS

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