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15 February 2002 News Update


New Zealand's drug monitoring agency continues to lead the way internationally achieving the top reporting statistics from doctors and pharmacists.

The Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM) based in Dunedin, was the world's first monitoring centre and contributes twice as much reporting as any other centre in the world, including those in countries where reporting is mandatory.

About 65% of reports originate from GPs, 17% from hospital doctors and the remainder from pharmacists and pharmaceutical companies.

Director David Coulter believes its success is due to it having evolved within the medical system, rather than having been imposed on it.

"There's been an absolutely magnificent response from New Zealand's doctors to reporting. That's been our secret to success."

The centre collates reports and statistics on hundreds of drugs every year, analysing trends and patterns on its own purpose-built computer software.

All results are also sent to the WHO international drug monitoring centre, based in Sweden, which 65 countries contribute to.

It was in response to thalidomide in 1965 that the centre was started by Professor Garth McQueen and later expanded by Professor Gavin Calloway and associates. CARM now operates within the University of Otago's Department of Preventive and Social Medicine.

CARM runs the Intensive Medicines Monitoring Programme, which monitors selected new medicines, as well as spontaneous reporting. It is at present monitoring 16 new medicines, for up to five years each and, at times, monitors herbal products, vaccines, dietary supplements and blood products.

Funding has more than doubled in recent years. An increase from $300,000 two years ago to $750,000 has enabled the centre to expand to bigger premises and increase staff from 13 to 18. It has also given CARM the opportunity to expand its work and monitor alternative medicines.

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