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Adverse reactions to medicines unacceptably high

24 March 2006

Adverse reactions to medicines at unacceptable high - Greens

News that more than 20,000 New Zealanders suffered adverse reactions to medicines last year has been greeted with alarm by Green MP Sue Kedgley.

In answer to a written question from Ms Kedgley, the Ministry of Health has confirmed that hospital discharge reports show that 16,789 New Zealanders suffered from an adverse reaction to a medicine last year.

On top of this, the Centre for Adverse Reactions Reporting reported around 4000 adverse reactions in the primary healthcare sector.

"These figures are very high, and what's most alarming is that we know they are just the tip of the iceberg, because reporting of adverse reactions to medicines is voluntary, not mandatory. Internationally, it is estimated that only about 10 percent of adverse reactions are reported," Ms Kedgley says.

"That's a huge number of New Zealanders suffering from an adverse reaction to drugs. Many of these reactions are preventable, and an urgent nationwide strategy is needed to reduce the number of New Zealanders harmed in this way.

Ms Kedgley is calling for information about medicines and their adverse reactions to be made mandatory on every medicine sold in New Zealand, so that consumers are aware of any potential adverse effects.

"The Green Party wants pharmacists to be funded to provide medicine management advice to high users of medicines, and an independent Consumer Information service to be set up. Most information about drugs is currently provided by pharmaceutical companies, which is unacceptable. Consumers and doctors need access to independent, impartial information about medicines," Ms Kedgley says.

She is also calling for reporting on adverse reactions to pharmaceuticals to be made mandatory.

"District Health Boards should be required to publish numbers of adverse reactions to medicines annually, so that New Zealanders can compare hospital records in this area. The Health and Disability Commissioner has recommended this change and its introduction overseas has improved safety records," Ms Kedgley says.

"When three people in Australia suffered from an adverse reaction to an over the counter drug two years ago, the Ministry of Health had issued a mass recall complementary medicines.

"If 20,000 New Zealanders were harmed by dietary supplements it would be considered a national scandal. But there seems to be a complacent attitude about the fact that 20,000 New Zealanders suffer from adverse reactions to medicines. This attitude needs to be changed," Ms Kedgley says.


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