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Pharmac committees need urgent review

Jackie Blue MP
National Party Associate Health Spokeswoman

2 March 2006

Pharmac committees need urgent review

National Party Associate Health spokeswoman Dr Jackie Blue says Pharmac’s advisory committee, PTAC, and its 11 expert sub-committees need to be urgently reviewed to ensure they work more efficiently and effectively for consumers.

“There seems to be confusion over roles and the process of assessing applications for funding of new drugs is incredibly time consuming,” says Dr Blue.

“All funding applications go initially to PTAC. Sometimes it refers drugs for funding to one of its 11 sub-committees for further consideration, and sometimes it does not.

“This has the potential to backfire as it did in the case of Lucrin, a prostate cancer drug. In December 2005, Pharmac elected not to get advice from the cancer sub-committee, but had to do a rapid U-turn when faced with a backlash from experts and the public.

“The time taken for drugs to be processed is lengthy because PTAC meets only once every three months and the expert sub-committees meet only on an ‘as needed’ basis.

“Take the saga of the diabetic insulin drug Lantus. Following the application for funding in July 2004, the drug was assessed as low priority by PTAC.

"Lantus was then referred to the diabetes sub-committee, which took a staggering 10 months to meet. When it did Lantus was given a high priority for funding, a decision that was at complete odds with the PTAC committee.

“Nearly two years later it is hoped a decision about Lantus is not far away. Incredibly, this is considered ‘quick’ by Pharmac’s standards.

“What really concerns me is that when questioned at the health select committee, Pharmac officials said they thought a review of PTAC guidelines wasn’t urgent.

“I think the exact opposite,” says Dr Blue.


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