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8 March 2002 News Update


Pharmac's decision to widen fully funded access to cholesterol-lowering statin medication has been welcomed by doctors and the pharmaceutical industry.

From April 1 Pharmac is lifting the Special Authority restrictions on statins and widening access to the cholesterol-lowering drug.

Statins are already available fully funded, but only through Special Authority to those patients who are at high risk of heart disease. The Special Authority will be replaced with prescribing guildelines which will increase the number of eligible people by more than 100,000 to around 300,000.

Pharmac's decision comes as a result of an agreement with Merck Sharp and Dohme and new prescribing guidelines developed with the National Heart Foundation and the Cardiac Society.

As a result of the MSD agreement, the company's Zocor brand of simvastatin will be phased out over the next few months and replaced with the Lipex brand.

Merck Sharp and Dohme managing director Alister Brown believes the Pharmac decision, will lead to a significant improvement in the cardiac health of many New Zealanders.

He said there is compelling evidence of the important contribution statins can make in cardiovascular disease. The value of statins is also being underlined by impressive new studies. The independent Heart Protection Study - which used the MSD statin simvastatin - was unveiled in the UK late last year to widespread international acclaim. It is due to be published in a major medical journal later this month.

The Pharmac announcement was also welcomed by prominent physicians including Auckland cardiologist Professor Harvey White who said groups such as diabetics and the elderly could now be treated appropriately.

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