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Pharmac has 40,000 reasons to move carefully

Friday, 23 April, 2004

Turner: Pharmac has 40,000 reasons to move carefully

Pharmac must put the health of 40,000 New Zealanders ahead of financial concerns, United Future's Judy Turner said today as specialists express their fears about a move to discontinue funding of the cholesterol-lowering drug, Lipitor, in favour of a generic replacement.

"Pharmac must heed specialist advice that switching about 40,000 patients from Lipitor to Liepex could cause health risks for patients currently on higher doses," Mrs Turner, United Future's health spokeswoman, said.

"This is a case where preventative action through prescribing a drug improves the risk factors associated with heart disease.

The initial concerns were raised by the Heart Foundation, the Cardiac Society and two Auckland University cardiologists, Dr Chris Ellis and Professor Harvey White.

"Surely the danger that patients could become destabilised and potentially hospitalised, not to mention unable to work and the associated stress caused to their family means that money spent on ensuring the more appropriate drug is available is well worth it," Mrs Turner said.

"We so often run a false economy over these issues - not to mention the human component of dealing with people's health, lives and well-being.

"Pharmac needs to take a common sense approach in its decisions to switch funding to generic versions of drugs.

"While it may seem cost effective on the face of it, it is simply illogical to make changes which could cause greater costs to the health system in the long run, and which could have a major impact on patient safety and quality of life," Mrs Turner said.


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