First nationally-consistent list of hospital medicines takes effect

Media release Medicines

People will be able to get the same medicines whichever hospital they visit, thanks to a new Hospital Medicines List in place across the country from 1 July.

Previously some patients missed out on medicines that were used in some parts of the country but not others. That now changes with PHARMAC introducing the national hospital medicines list (HML).

The HML, similar to the community Pharmaceutical Schedule that PHARMAC also manages, includes the medicines that patients in all District Health Board hospitals will have access to.

“Today (1 July) marks a major milestone in improving patients’ access to DHB hospital medicines across the country,” says PHARMAC Chief Executive Steffan Crausaz.

“Developed by clinicians, pharmacists and PHARMAC over two years, the HML will be used for all DHB hospital prescribing, supporting the Government’s goal of national and equitable access to hospital medicines regardless of where people live, and a consistent approach to the introduction of new pharmaceuticals in hospitals.”

Publication of the list follows a recommendation from the 2010 Ministerial Review Group, and concern expressed over the phenomenon known as `postcode prescribing’, where some medicines were available in some DHBs but not others.

For example, there has been varying availability of infliximab, a biologic agent, for use in treating inflammatory bowel disease (as well as other conditions). Patients with similar clinical circumstances should have equivalent access to this from July. This will also be the case for ranibizumab, a treatment for macular degeneration (a form of blindness).

“To ensure consistency for patients in future, PHARMAC now manages applications for new products to be added to the HML. It already does this for hospital cancer treatments on behalf of DHBs.”

Steffan Crausaz says the introduction of the list will be the start of a transition for hospital prescribers. If clinicians want to use a medicine to treat a patient that isn’t included in the HML they can apply to PHARMAC for an exception or to have the drug added. To ensure clinical safety, if an urgent treatment decision is needed DHBs can make that decision themselves, following guidelines set by PHARMAC.

The HML’s introduction will also smooth the way for medicines prescribed in hospital to be continued when a patient leaves hospital, if necessary for ongoing treatment. This will avoid situations where a patient is prescribed a medicine in hospital, only to find it is not funded in the community.

Steffan Crausaz says while nationally consistent access is the primary aim of the HML, it is likely savings will also occur.

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