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CFC-Free medicine well on track

media statement from Pharmac

With one in ten New Zealanders suffering from asthma, and respiratory medicine costing $90 million a year, Pharmac says it is well aware of the complex issues around asthma treatment, including the transition to CFC free inhalers.

General Manager Wayne McNee says already 27 CFC-free asthma inhalers are fully subsidised. The first one was subsidised more than three years ago, and in some asthma drug subgroups almost all the choices are CFC-free.

And PHARMAC makes it clear that it looks favourably at CFC-free products when deciding which products get subsidies.

This is well within international guidelines.

"In some subgroups it is true that there are no CFC-free products, but we are waiting for the manufacturers to produce them," he says.

"The scare-story about asthma inhalers recently sent to the media appears to be a cynical attempt by a drug company to put pressure on PHARMAC to subsidise its product."

The public relations company for a drug company put out a media statement yesterday which purported to be unsolicited scientific opinion. There was no identifying logo on the statement and no indication that it was related to a drug company.

"The fact that the company is currently trying to sell us its products was not in the media release, nor was the fact that many CFC-free treatments already are subsidised."

NIWA's CEO Paul Hargreaves has concerns about the way the conclusions were reported in the media.

"The reports missed a vital point from information supplied by Niwa. In the historical data, metered dose asthma inhaler use in New Zealand is not separate from all aerosol sprays, so that with the conservative assumption that use has not changed in 12 years, Niwa estimates that about one percent of the New Zealand contribution in 1986, the year of the Montreal Protocol, came from MDI use," he says.

A huge reduction in the total tonnage of Ozone Depletion Potentials has come about since then by the removal of the major uses of CFCs and Halons in aerosol sprays, refrigeration, foam plastic, fire protection and as solvents.

He says Niwa's point is that although 63 percent of the contribution made by New Zealand to the global depletion of the ozone layer is now made up by CFC asthma medicines, the actual total amount of ozone depleting substances from New Zealand is only about two percent of what it was in 1986.

Paul Hargreaves says he is disappointed these important qualifications were omitted from media reports.

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