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Look At Reasons For High Painkiller Use - Greens

Green Party Health spokesperson Sue Kedgley is calling on Pharmac to look at why New Zealand has such a high rate of painkiller prescriptions.

The Health Minister Annette King released figures to the Green Party in answer to a written question yesterday, which showed that Paracetamol was the most common drug prescribed last year, with 987,995 prescriptions written. Two other painkillers, aspirin and dextropropoxyphene, were also in the top twenty.

"Painkillers can obviously help many people, such as arthritis sufferers or people who are recovering from surgery or accidents, cope with their conditions. But they can have side-effects, such as allergenic or haematological reactions, and shouldn't be prescribed willy-nilly.

"Our society demands a quick fix from doctors, and it is tempting to send people away with a pill. Pharmac should expand its role in trying to eliminate inappropriate prescriptions by investigating whether such a high rate of painkiller prescriptions is appropriate, and whether some patients could be better helped in other ways.

"Our high use of painkillers is a sad indictment of a health system focussed on bottom-of-the-cliff stuff. If some of the money which is presently paying for these painkillers could instead be put into preventative medicine such as improving nutrition, housing and lifestyle choices, then pain for many people could be avoided before it starts."

Ms Kedgley said although a 15 percent drop in antibiotic prescriptions was pleasing, she was still concerned that the antibiotic amoxycillin was the second most prescribed drug with 701,704 prescriptions, and that four other antibiotics were in the top twenty.

"Excessive use of antibiotics has lead to the rapid increase of superbugs which are very hard to treat. Wise and restrained prescribing of antibiotics will make sure that they retain their effectiveness as a powerful tool against bacterial infections."

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