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Pharmac review glosses over concerns

Dr Paul Hutchison
National Party Associate Health Spokesman

10 November 2004

Pharmac review glosses over concerns

Pharmac's Annual Review, released today, glosses over significant concerns of the past year, says National's Associate Health spokesman, Dr Paul Hutchison.

"The review might boast availability of some new drugs but, when it comes to choice, New Zealand's is not as good as Australia's."

Dr Hutchison says Pharmac has served New Zealand very well in terms of keeping costs down, but the annual review ignores a number of bad news stories.

* Tens of thousands of patients were forced to change their cholesterol-lowering medication and no safety monitoring provisions were made for the switch. Pharmac and the Health Ministry could be accused of negligence for that failure!

* Some terminally ill cancer patients were unable to access a morphine sulphate pain relief agent.

* Many drugs, such as the common anti-gout drug Allopurinol, have simply not been available. Pharmac's sole supply policies are partly to blame.

* Pfizer Pharmaceuticals withdrew a grant of $65 million to New Zealand researchers. Pfizer said it was because it could no longer have a sensible dialogue with Pharmac or the Government.

* The pharmaceutical budget's expenditure was downgraded from $566 million to $541 million in the past financial year due to the delayed introduction of low drug co-payments from 1 October 2003 to 1 August 2004. The $25 million not spent could have funded the breast cancer drugs Pharmac says it has no money for.

Dr Hutchison says National wants a full review of the agency because beneath the gloss there are some deep concerns.


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