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Ministerial inquiry into PHARMAC decision needed

David Clark should hold a ministerial inquiry into PHARMAC’s decision to switch to the generic form of epilepsy drug lamotrigine which may have resulted in four deaths, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“PHARMAC’s decision to fund only one brand of lamotrigine and the subsequent reversal of that decision raises more questions than it answers.

“Given four people have died since the initial brand switch, the public and patients deserve to know whether or not those deaths were as a result of the compulsory switch to Logem, the generic form of lamotrigine.

“We know that Medsafe had raised concerns about the brand switch before it went ahead.

“What we need to know now is whether the Minister was involved in the decision-making around lamotrigine, which would call into question PHARMAC’s independence, or whether Medsafe raised further concerns about the number of adverse reactions they were seeing.

“A ministerial inquiry is the appropriate way of getting answers to these questions.

“Ultimately the question also needs to be asked about whether Dr Clark’s decision to increase PHARMAC funding by an amount which barely covers inflation is forcing risky drug-switches on the basis of making savings. By comparison, National increased PHARMAC funding by an average of $24 million each year we were in government.

“The public deserves answers to these questions so we can continue to have confidence in PHARMAC’s independence and decision-making.”

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