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NZ’s Slow Medicine Uptake Leads To 800 Diabetes Deaths Each Year


The Diabetes Foundation Aotearoa has estimated in a submission to Pharmac last month that New Zealand’s long delayed adoption of modern diabetes medicines is leading to the death of about 800 people each year.

This shocking estimate comes on the heels of a report that found New Zealand is in last place out of 20 comparable OECD countries for access to modern medicines.

Chairperson of the Foundation, clinician John Baker, says New Zealand’s three stage formula for medical treatment of diabetes hasn’t changed for twenty years, and is now only used by third world countries.

“Diabetes is one of our most well-known diseases, and it is also the best example of how slow New Zealand is to adopt new medicines.

“Third stage diabetes is still treated with insulin, now 100 years old. The rest of the developed world uses a category of drug first used only 15 years ago.

“Pharmac has done a great job keeping the medicine budget down, so slow uptake is to be expected – but 800 patient deaths a year is not an acceptable cost for the small money saved in this case, for one of our most prominent diseases.”

The three medicines New Zealanders currently get are Metformin, first used 1957, Sulphonylurea such as Glipizide, first used 1956, and Insulin first used 1922. This approach is only recommended for third world countries, by the American Diabetes Association & Europe’s Association for the Study of Diabetes.

The medicines used in the rest of the developed world are Metformin XR, first used 2004, SGLT-2 inhibitors, first used 2013, and GLP-agonist, first used 2005.

In a submission made last month to Pharmac, Baker estimates that 491 deaths each year could be prevented by the use of SGLT-2, and 286 deaths by use of GLP-agonist drugs. A further 99 renal replacement therapies (dialysis) could be avoided by use of SGLT-2.

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