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What Pharmac isn't telling patients:

What Pharmac isn't telling patients:

Some drugs will cost heaps more under Pharmac plan

People will have to pay a lot more for some drugs, under Pharmac's planned move to three-monthly dispensing, Green Party MP Sue Kedgley reveals today.

"Some people, including the elderly and the sick, will find some of their drugs suddenly costing them a lot more - in some cases, more than they will be able to afford. This is really going to hurt some people financially and, in some cases, could mean people stop taking medicines they need," Ms Kedgley said.

Under the plan, most medicines will move from one-monthly dispensing to three-monthly, meaning people have to pick up big quantities of medicines in one go. The main aim is to save Pharmac and the District Health Boards money - an estimated $36 million a year.

Ms Kedgley said there would be exceptions, with some medicines still able to be prescribed one-monthly, at the doctor's discretion and still attracting full government subsidies. But the big flaw is where a doctor believes a drug on the three-monthly list (which is not also on a special 'close control' list) should be dispensed one-monthly to protect a patient's safety. Both the patient and the pharmacist lose their subsidy in this instance, meaning the drug price skyrockets.

An example is Warfarin sodium - used to thin blood in patients at risk of developing clots, or in the treatment of thrombosis. The correct dose at any one time is critical for effect - making it potentially dangerous to supply in three-month lots. Other examples include the painkiller Paracetamol with dextropropoxyphene (frequently used by elderly people with arthritic pain), and Haloperidol used in psychiatric medicine (this has a range of significant side effects and needs to be dosed with caution, particularly in the elderly who often have reduced kidney function), Ms Kedgley said.

"Whether to prescribe one-monthly or three-monthly should be a purely clinical decision - not financial."

Meanwhile, a powderkeg paper leaked to the Green Party shows that Pharmac's so-called public consultation over the planned change is a sham, Ms Kedgley said. "The paper clearly shows that Pharmac has already made up its mind to change, regardless of what the public says. It even says in the paper, marked 'confidential to CEOs, Chairs and Pharmac', that Pharmac would go as far as to court to defend the move."

The paper outlines detailed PR and legal strategies for Pharmac and the DHBs to handle opposition, expected mainly from the Pharmacy Guild. These include complex spin proposals to counter Guild arguments. However, the paper confirms what Ms Kedgley and the Guild have been saying all along - that the move will lead to some pharmacy closures (though the paper refers to it as 'reconfiguration of the pharmacy sector').

Ms Kedgley today asked Parliamentary Question No. 12 on the topic in the House

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