Thursday, September 01, 2005

Pfizer critical of Pharmac

Pharmac earlier this week dismissed results from a survey undertaken by the drug company Pfizer, which found that New Zealanders would want an independent survey of Pharmac and we don't spend enough on pharmaceuticals. Pfizer have responded, with the expected disappointment in Pharmacs lack of interest in their surveys result.
"To simply say that this is about healthcare companies wanting to make profits is a cheap shot, and ignores the concerns of nearly seven out of ten New Zealanders who are worried about lack of access to medicines and want PHARMAC to be reviewed."
Of course. Personally, I think we do at times make some ridiculous decisions with the drugs we choose to stock. For example, anti-TNF-alpha inhibitors which have been proven to be very effective at relieving the pain and suffering caused by rheumatoid arthritis are not subsidised here*. That puts these drugs well out of reach of those who need them, who have to rely on less effective alternatives that don't work nearly as well.

*Correction: Actually it turns out that they are subsidised for individuals who have the childhood form of the disease but not adults.
TNF inhibitors have recently been found to be the most effective therapy available for rheumatoid arthritis. In New Zealand they have been made available over the last year, to those with the childhood form of this disease, however, they must stop treatment at 18. The Rheumatology Association estimates that 300-400 people aged over 18 would fit the stringent criteria of the drug, however, standard intensive drug therapy can cost up to $7,000 a year in costs for hospitalisation to these people often totals more than $600 a day, on top of that and surgery.
From what I understand, the childhood form of the disease is pretty rare while this is much more common in those who are elderly. Basically, the best available treatment isn't able to reach the majority of people that actually have the disease. Of course, the fact this treatment is so expensive is probably one of the main reasons Pharmac is refusing to subsidise it. For a list of some other Pharmac quibbles that have turned up over the past few years, scoop has an article detailing many of the drugs that Pharmac has come under criticism over.