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Ryall: Govt must secure pandemic drugs now

Hon Tony Ryall
National Party Health Spokesman

7 December 2005

Ryall: Govt must secure pandemic drugs now

National is repeating its call for the Government to start securing additional antibiotic and personal medicines needed during a possible influenza pandemic.

“Stocks of two sorts of drugs are needed –beyond Tamiflu,” says National’s Health spokesman, Tony Ryall.

“The first group are antibiotics, which will be needed to fight secondary infection. In the 1918 pandemic, most people died of secondary infection – often pneumonia. The second are the life-preserving drugs that people take every day – insulin, warfarin, and many more.

“New Zealand must be prepared. If a pandemic hits, it may prove impossible to get extra supplies of these essential drugs. This means New Zealanders will face unnecessary suffering and considerable risk.

“Health Minister Pete Hodgson must direct health authorities to start increasing national supplies of antibiotics. His arguments about shelf life are nonsense; antibiotics can last between three and five years. And stock can be rotated, as every pharmacist knows.

“Mr Hodgson should also direct Pharmac to fund an extra month’s ‘reserve supply’ for people with chronic illnesses. If people are on blood pressure or heart pills or insulin and the borders close for some weeks, then they will run out of their essential medicines.

“National raised this matter some weeks ago. Mr Hodgson decried the need for increasing antibiotics, saying they would expire too soon. He also scoffed at the need to increase the supply of essential personal medicines. (See Oral Question No.9, 22 November 2005).

“The Minister should have enough gumption to admit he was wrong. He should act now. The continuing trickle of bird-flu cases in humans in parts of Asia indicate that the risk is still real. The Government must fill the glaring gaps in their pandemic plan,” says Mr Ryall.

ENDS

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