News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


Medicine use continues to rise

Medicine use continues to rise

New Zealanders are taking more medicine than ever before, according to figures just released by drug funding agency PHARMAC.

In the year to June 2003, New Zealand patients were written some 22.4 million prescriptions for subsidised medicine (accounting for about two-thirds of all prescribed medicines by value).

That’s a 5.3 percent increase from the previous year, and averages out at more than five prescriptions per year for every man, woman and child in New Zealand.

Figures published today in PHARMAC’s 2003 Annual Review show the overall rise in prescriptions has come while some medicines have seen a fall in use. These include hormone replacement therapy (down 38 percent) and some of the more commonly-prescribed antibiotics.

So are we a nation of pill-poppers? PHARMAC Chief Executive Wayne McNee says there may be overuse in some instances, but there are examples in the past year of large increases in some medicines where there has been under-use in the past, including for cholesterol-lowering statins.

“Growth in prescription volumes is one of the continuing issues PHARMAC faces,” Wayne McNee says. “It puts continuing pressure on the medicines bill and is one of the reasons why PHARMAC has to devote so much energy to reducing medicine cost.

“Volume growth is one of the major factors impacting on New Zealanders’ ability to access new subsidised medicines. If medicine volumes stayed as they are, the savings that are currently achieved could all be used to fund new medicines.”

Medicines to show significant rises included antidepressants, new generation antipsychotic medicines, and the stomach ulcer drugs known as proton pump inhibitors.

So what causes the ongoing increase in prescribing? Some causes include changes in population size and mix factors, such as ageing, and increases in prescribing as a result of decisions by PHARMAC. However, medicalisation and medicine advertising can also be drivers of prescribing patterns. [more]

2/Medicine use continues to rise

“It’s obvious from looking at the data that those medicines marketed and promoted most heavily are those more commonly prescribed, so there is clearly a correlation between medicine promotion and prescribing,” Wayne McNee says.

A related issue is inappropriately high doses of some medicines, including inhaled corticosteroids for asthma relief. PHARMAC launched a campaign in 2003 to address what clinicians agree are inappropriately high doses. Where PHARMAC decisions have led to an increase in usage, these have been accompanied by a careful analysis to show a positive impact on people’s health.

© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis: Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman'

The Guardian needed not one, but three reviews to do justice to Fennell's unsettling approach, which indicates exactly how ambiguous and controversial its message really is. More>>

Howard Davis: Jill Trevelyan's Rita Angus

Although Angus has become one of Aotearoa’s best-loved painters, the story of her life remained little known and poorly understood before Jill Trevelyan's acclaimed and revelatory biography, which won the Non Fiction Award at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2009, and has now been republished by Te Papa press. More>>

Howard Davis: The Back of the Painting

Painting conservators are the forensic pathologists of the art world. While they cannot bring their subjects back to life, they do provide fascinating insights into the precise circumstances of a painting's creation, its material authenticity, and constructive methodology. More>>

Howard Davis: Black Panthers on the Prowl

A passionate and gripping political drama from Shaka King, this is an informative and instructive tale of human frailty that centers around the charismatic Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was murdered at the age of twenty-one during a police raid. More>>

Howard Davis: Controlling the High Ground

Stephen Johnson's raw and angry film not only poses important questions with scrupulous authenticity, but also provides a timely reminder of the genocidal consequences of casual bigotry and xenophobia. More>>

Howard Davis: Dryzabone - Robert Conolly's The Dry

After the terrible devastation caused by last year’s bushfires, which prompted hundreds of Australians to shelter in the ocean to escape incineration and destroyed uncountable amounts of wildlife, The Dry has been released during a totally different kind of dry spell. More>>

Howard Davis: Hit the Road, Jack - Chloé Zhao's Nomadland

Nomadland is perhaps the ultimately 'road' movie as it follows a group of dispossessed and disenfranchised vagabonds who find a form of communal refuge in camp sites and trailer parks after the economic contraction of 2008. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland