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PHARMAC Working For Flexibility In Brand Changes

PHARMAC Still Working To Find Flexibility In Brand Changes

PHARMAC will keep working to find a practicable mechanism to provide some flexibility in its sole supply tender, says Manager Funding and Procurement Steffan Crausaz.

The Government drug-funder asked for feedback on a proposal to introduce a mechanism, called the Alternative Brand Allowance (ABA) to its tender for off-patent medicines. The mechanism would enable some people to remain on their existing medicine if there was a brand change and they found medical difficulties in changing brands.

Steffan Crausaz says responses to the consultation raised some concerns about the ABA that mean it can’t yet be put in place.

“The tender is an important way in which PHARMAC ‘frees up’ medicines funding, so it can be used to purchase other pharmaceuticals or healthcare. In this way, the tender is central to PHARMAC’s role of getting the best health outcomes from the pharmaceutical budget,” says Steffan Crausaz.

“We do recognise that some people have genuine medical difficulties in changing brands of their medicine, and we’d ideally like to have some more flexibility in the sole supply tendering process.”

“We asked for feedback on our proposal and have been told that the ABA as proposed won’t work effectively. This shows the benefits of asking the sector for its views in consultation. We need to take notice of these views and work through the valid concerns that were raised, which means we won’t be progressing the proposal at this time.

“We remain committed to seeking a way to give people some flexibility while maintaining the benefits that the tender provides.”

When it is considering changing medicines through the tender, PHARMAC already takes advice from an expert committee on clinical issues for people changing brands. Differences such as size or shape of tablets, colour, flavour, or whether a pill is coated or not, are all taken into account.

“The vast majority of people have no medical difficulty when the funded brand of a medicine changes. The solution we are seeking will respond to the needs of those people who might experience medical difficulty with changing brands as a result of the tender,” says Steffan Crausaz.

PHARMAC has run a tender for off-patent (older) medicines since 1997, and in this time it has generated savings of over $300 million. The 2008 tender, which is released this week, will be the first time PHARMAC runs an electronic tendering system. The electronic web-based system will make it easier to make and receive bids, and speed the process of assessing them.

This year the tender includes 724 products, and PHARMAC estimates savings of $20 million over three years to result from it.

Developing a mechanism for people who experience genuine medical difficulties changing brands was identified in the list of actions arising from Medicines New Zealand, which was released this month. Steffan Crausaz says PHARMAC will continue work to seek a solution in time for the 2008-09 tender. This work is a high priority for PHARMAC.

In the meantime, PHARMAC will continue to carefully consider what brand changes might mean for people taking each medicine.

ENDS

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