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Meds strategy long on rhetoric, short on solutions

14 December 2007

Medicines strategy long on rhetoric, short on solutions

The Green Party says the newly released Medicines New Zealand strategy has plenty of rhetoric but is short on innovation or practical measures to achieve its goals.

The Medicines Strategy document is full of lofty goals and principles that few people would oppose, but is woefully thin on practical measures to achieve them, Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"While the Green Party supports the direction of the new strategy, we are disappointed that it fails to address direct-to-consumer advertising, which drives up demand for medicines, and provides consumers with little or no information about their potential adverse effects.

"While we are pleased that one of its goals is to ensure New Zealanders get access to safe and effective medicines, we are astonished by the lack of any realistic measures to make that happen.

"The suggestion that Pharmac should invite its critics to a regular 'stakeholder forum' to comment on their activities will do little to allay concerns that New Zealanders may be missing out on treatments available in Australia, the UK and the US.

"That consumers should be invited every two years to a similar forum to contribute to the strategy is a pathetic substitute for getting reliable, transparent information about the costs and benefits of available treatments.

"However, I welcome the fact that the strategy makes a commitment to providing New Zealanders with information about the uses, risks and benefits of medicines, and that it recognises that some of the risks arising from new medicines may not yet be apparent."

"I have long been concerned at the lack of impartial, independent information available to consumers about medicines, and their potential adverse effects of interactions."

"Consumer information panels on medicines are not mandatory in New Zealand, as they are in many other countries. Furthermore, almost all the information available about medicines comes from pharmaceutical companies themselves, and is therefore not impartial," Ms Kedgley said.

"We urgently need an independent Consumer Information Service, to provide consumers and health professionals with impartial and independent advice on medicines."

"Pharmacists must also be funded so that they can ensure multiple medicines do not adversely interact with each other."

ENDS

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