OIA response - Levothyroxine supply

Information regarding levothyroxine supply in New Zealand.

3 April 2020

[name and contact details redacted]

Dear [name redacted] 

REQUEST FOR INFORMATION 

Thank you for your email of 6 March 2020, requesting information under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA).  You asked for answers to the following: 

  • Across all brands of levothyroxine sold in New Zealand, are any of these subject to any shortages due to disruptions caused by COVID-19?
  • If so, what information has PHARMAC been supplied or sought regarding when normal supplies will resume?
  • Across all brands of levothyroxine sold in New Zealand, what shortages currently exist, and how many months’ worth of stock remain available?
  • What contingency plans does PHARMAC have in place if supply disruptions continue and existing stock is not replaced? 

I have answered each of your questions in turn. Please note these responses are in the context of the publicly funded market for levothyroxine. 

Across all brands of levothyroxine sold in New Zealand, are any of these subject to any shortages due to disruptions caused by COVID-19? 

PHARMAC is not aware of any impact on the supply of funded levothyroxine caused by COVID-19. 

PHARMAC’s website lists funded medicines and devices that are experiencing stock shortages and we encourage you to keep abreast of the current situation.  See www.pharmac.govt.nz/medicine-funding-and-supply/medicine-notices/ for the current listing.

If so, what information has PHARMAC been supplied or sought regarding when normal supplies will resume? 

On the basis stated above, this part of your request is refused under section 18(g) of the OIA, as the information is not held by PHARMAC, and we have no reason to believe it is held by another agency.  

Across all brands of levothyroxine sold in New Zealand, what shortages currently exist, and how many months’ worth of stock remain available? 

As stated above, PHARMAC is not aware of any shortages. 

PHARMAC does not hold specific information on the amount of stock that is available in New Zealand and on this basis this part of your request is refused under section 18(g) of the OIA, as the information is not held by PHARMAC, and we have no reason to believe it is held by another agency. 

What contingency plans does PHARMAC have in place if supply disruptions continue and existing stock is not replaced?

With the outbreak of COVID-19, it’s inevitable that there will be disruptions to some pharmaceutical supply chains, for example, quarantines may slow activities in manufacturing plants or they may impact transportation and ports. This is a global issue. 

PHARMAC has a number of strategies to manage supply issues, for example, PHARMAC has recently initiated restrictions on dispensing so that no more than one-month supply of any pharmaceutical is dispensed to a patient at a time.  More information about these strategies can be found on PHARMAC’s website, both in relation to COVID-19 and more generally:

www.pharmac.govt.nz/information-for/covid-19-pharmacs-response/

www.pharmac.govt.nz/about/your-guide-to-pharmac/factsheet-07-managing-medicine-supply/

You have the right, by way of complaint under section 28(3) of the OIA to an Ombudsman, to seek an investigation and review of our decision. 

We trust that this information answers your queries.  

We are making our information more freely available, so we will now publish selected OIA responses (excluding personal details) on our website.  Please get in touch with us if you have any questions about this.

Yours sincerely

Rachel Read
Policy Manager, Engagement and Implementation