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November 2002 issue Pharmacy Today magazine


Pharmac's sole supply regime is serving New Zealand patients and taxpayers well and has not thrown up problems that would spur the agency to make significant changes.

Pharmac CEO Wayne McNee said a press statement released by the Pharmaceutical Society claiming the agency's policies are contributing to pharmaceutical supply problems, is off the mark.

The society said Pharmac's sole supply contracts meant there was not the "buffer zone" of several supply companies, which would lessen the likelihood of pharmaceutical shortages.

Wayne McNee says a sole supply agreement reduces the risk of supply problems. Under the terms of contracts, a company is obliged to meet the supply requirements or face penalties including the costs of securing an alternative source and Pharmac's administrative costs.

As a result of concerns from pharmacists, the transition period between contracts was extended to minimise supply problems at the beginning and end of sole supply contracts, he says.

Wayne McNee stresses the recent Enahexal shortage, which according to some pharmacists is still being felt, was a result of the manufacturer's packaging and "not so much a problem with sole supply."

The society also raised the issue of non-tendered pharmaceuticals such as the current shortage of Betaloc CR, which has no generic equivalent.

Low prices secured by Pharmac, combined with the fact New Zealand is a small market, may act as disincentives for companies to supply more profitable markets, the society said.

AstraZeneca New Zealand's managing director Lance Gravatt says "poor production efficiencies" coupled with higher than expected international demand led to the shortage.

Supplies are expected to improve markedly over the next two months and should meet demand by the end of the year.

"From our perspective, while margins may be low in New Zealand to the level they can cause a lot of corporate difficulty, I'm not aware that's affected our ability to secure supply as long as we stick to our established (stock and procurement) procedures," Lance Gravatt says.

But the main thrust of the society's statement was added stress for pharmacists and patient confusion.

Dale Griffiths' Auckland pharmacy has been without Enahexal 10 mgs for the past six weeks.

Tracking stocks and administration adds to time and human resource constraints but consultations with patients, often elderly and on multiple medications, are the most time consuming and worrying variable, he says.

"Some of these people are very ill which doesn't help their understanding of the changes. You can keep to your procedures and be meticulous with your explanations, but there is always the potential for patient confusion."

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