29 July 2020: OIA response: Information related to the prescription and/or use of generic medicines
29 July 2020
Dear [name and contact details redacted]
REQUEST FOR INFORMATION
Thank you for your request to the Ministry of Health received on 8 June 2020 under the Official Information Act 1982. The Ministry transferred the following three questions from your request to PHARMAC to respond to directly, as this information sits within PHARMAC’s area of responsibility. You asked:
“3. What is the criteria for Medical Practitioners and Pharmacists to use generic medication?
4. Are Medical Practitioners permitted to choose whether or not they prescribe non generic medication?
5. What percentage of NZ patient prescriptions require the use of generic medication?”
I have answered your questions below.
What is the criteria for Medical Practitioners and Pharmacists to use generic medication?
For some medicines there is only a single funded brand, which must be supplied by the pharmacist in order for the person to receive a funded prescription. Therefore, medical practitioners are encouraged to prescribe generically to ensure their patients will always receive fully funded medicines.
Are Medical Practitioners permitted to choose whether or not they prescribe non generic medication?
Medical practitioners may request a specific brand, but if the brand is not funded, extra charges will apply which must be met by the patient. Additionally, specific brands may not always be available.
What percentage of NZ patient prescriptions require the use of generic medication?
The majority of prescription medicines supplied in New Zealand are supplied as generic medicines, rather than the original or innovator brand. Paracetamol is one such example.
Generic medicines are alternative brands of medicines to the original (innovator) medicine. Generic medicines contain the same active ingredients in the same concentrations as the innovator brand. All generic medicines supplied on a prescription in New Zealand are approved by Medsafe, New Zealand’s Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority.
Paracetamol is the highest volume funded medicine, by number of prescriptions, in New Zealand. Usually only one brand is funded, and the one funded brand has changed a number of times through PHARMAC’s annual tendering process. Pharmacists can only dispense the funded brand.
Recently paracetamol has been in short supply, due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on global medicines supplies. Therefore, PHARMAC is now funding multiple brands of paracetamol to ensure continuity of supply. I suggest you check what brands your local pharmacy now has available.
We trust that this information answers your queries.
Manager, Policy and Government Services