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Pharmac Savings Made At Women's Expense

Friday 8 December 2000

"The Health Minister must step in and stop Pharmac from turning the funding of the contraceptive pill upside down," National Associate Health spokesperson Lynda Scott said today.

"Pharmac, the agency that buys medicines for New Zealand, is planning to call for tenders for the contraceptive pill.

"It would mean there would be a sole supply arrangement for only a few brands of the pill, and subsidies and part subsidies on other brands would be removed.

"Women will pay a big price for this change. Pharmac is completely out-of-touch and it is unacceptable to consider messing with the 224,000 New Zealand women who take oral contraceptives.

"Women will pay with unwanted pregnancies. When the third generation oral contraceptive scare was on and women had to change pills, the abortion rate rose 9.5% (NZ Family Physician, October 2000)," Dr Scott said.

"Women will also pay financially. It costs $38 - $50 to visit your GP and the cost of the oral contraceptive pill if not subsidised will have to be fully met.

"There is the time and effort involved in educating people in the use of the new pill. Women often take a long time to find an oral contraceptive that suits them.

"The Health Minister stepped in and instructed Pharmac to fund beta-iInterferon for people with multiple sclerosis.

"She must take action to curtail Pharmac's plans for the oral contraceptive pill.

"Pharmac has developed too narrow a focus. This move would save money but only by shifting the costs to women's pockets and other parts of the health sector.

"Pharmac must consider the effect on people's lives. They failed to do this when they changed ACE inhibitors for hypertension, which affected many older New Zealanders. They should have learnt from that experience," Dr Scott said.

Ends


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