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4 October 2002 News Update


The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand (PSNZ) says pharmacists and their patients are bearing the brunt of some of the downstream effects of the policies of Pharmac.

Society president Bernie McKone, said pharmacists and their patients have had to bear the costs and risks of a complex environment that sometimes resulted in shortages of supply of some medicines.

"Pharmac's short term tendering cycle that often results in a sole supplier of a particular medicine has meant all manufacturers have had to become very prudent in managing stock levels. There's not the buffer zone of several sources that could be called upon in the past. This can result in stock shortages from time to time from tender winning companies. When this happens, pharmacists have to try and identify therapeutically appropriate subsidised alternatives and then take a lead role in explaining the changes to prescribers and patients."

He said supply problems could also occur with non-tendered pharmaceuticals because of the environment that had been created. An example was the current shortage of Betaloc CR, a widely prescribed cardio-vascular medicine supplied by AstraZeneca.

"There is real potential for treatment problems for patients, and worrying professional liability implications for pharmacists who are having to juggle limited supplies and sometimes dispense varying tablet strengths in an effort to maintain the prescribed treatment."

"This is a small market, so we tend to be somewhat down the list when replacement stocks do become available. Low prices gained by Pharmac for the New Zealand market may also act as a further disincentive to supply us ahead of more profitable alternative countries."

"Pharmacists can no longer be expected to be the default solution for problems not of their making. They have hard enough jobs to do without having to shoulder the costs and responsibility of clarifying corporate advertising or having to be apologists for gaps in supply of subsidised medicines."

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