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Stagnant drug budget sees patients suffer

Dr Lynda Scott

National Health Spokeswoman

22 April 2004

Stagnant drug budget sees patients suffer

New Zealanders' tolerance for having medicines changed continually is staggering, says National's Health spokeswoman Dr Lynda Scott.

Government's sole drug funding agency, PHARMAC, is considering replacing Lipitor, the most prescribed and evidenced as the most effective cholesterol-reducing drug available, with a similar cheaper drug, Lipix. It is a decision that is being criticised by leading cardiologists.

Dr Scott says the Government has backed PHARMAC into a corner over the decision.

"For the three years to 2003, government funding for PHARMAC remained stagnant, at $512 million per year. There is an increasing demand for drugs, as well as price increases yet the budget has remained the same

"Thousands of people are suffering from high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease paying the price for reduced access to very effective medication.

Dr Scott says changing the drug may reduce costs in the short-term, but in the long term costs will increase.

"A less effective drug can lead to increased hospitalisations, more drugs for patients, and expensive surgery further down the track.

"PHARMAC and the Government must put the best interests of patients first, not just the short-term bottom line, when making this decision", says Dr Scott.

"This decision needs to be reconsidered in light of criticism from leading cardiologists on behalf of their patients".


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