Grant winners announced for new joint pharmaceuticals research fund

Media release Medicines

Researchers from Auckland and Otago Universities are the first recipients of new grants from PHARMAC and the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC).

Professor Keith Petrie at the University of Auckland, and Dr Lianne Parkin of the University of Otago, will receive grants worth more than $210,000 each for their research.

Generic medicines are equivalent to brand name medicines, providing the same quality and performance but usually at a lower cost. Professor Petrie’s study will look at how people’s views on generic medicines can affect their acceptance of these medicines.

Metformin is the first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes, however overseas research shows that many patients don’t use it as prescribed. Dr Parkin will explore how to improve the way New Zealanders with type 2 diabetes use metformin.

PHARMAC Chief Executive Steffan Crausaz and HRC Chief Executive Professor Kath McPherson announced the first recipients of the joint fund today.

Steffan Crausaz says the two studies will provide valuable insights into how New Zealanders can get the best out of medicines. 

“Our objective in setting up the fund with the HRC was to improve our knowledge of medicines use in New Zealand, so that we can take steps to improve people’s use of medicines,” he says.

“Generic medicines are widely used in New Zealand, and research will look at what else can be done to help people adapt to changes in their medicine.

“Metformin is an important medicine for people with type 2 diabetes, so Dr Parkin’s research will give us a better idea as to why people might not continue taking the medicine they need to keep them well.”

Dr McPherson says the collaboration with PHARMAC is providing a further opportunity to grow innovative research into pharmaceuticals in New Zealand.

“We’re delighted to be involved in this research initiative with PHARMAC. This is a great example of government health organisations collaborating to benefit patients and strengthen the use of research evidence to improve our health system overall.  

“I’m confident that the studies funded through this partnership initiative will be of a high quality and add to our knowledge of how New Zealanders use medicines.”

Details of grant recipients and studies

Professor Keith Petrie, University of Auckland
Improving acceptance of generic medicines
$213,750, 12 months

Lay summary:

The focus of this proposal is on how to improve the acceptance of generic medicines. While positive perceptions of generic medicines are critical for acceptance, very little research has been done on how to effectively change attitudes towards generic medicines or to look at how the presentation of generic medicines can be improved. We propose two studies to look at the issue of improving acceptability and response to generic medicine. The first study evaluates whether highlighting the mechanism of action in branded and generic medicines medications being identical is an effective way of improving perceptions and response to generics. The second study examines whether generic medication can be branded more effectively and investigates whether improving generic packaging can improve the effectiveness and reduce the side effects of generic medication. The results of the proposed research may provide practical strategies that can be used to improve acceptance of generic medicines.

Dr Lianne Parkin, University of Otago

Improving metformin adherence and persistence in people with type 2 diabetes
$213, 229, 24 months

Lay summary:

Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) imposes a substantial burden on New Zealanders, particularly Māori and Pacific peoples. Metformin is the first-line medication for the treatment of T2DM, but overseas research has found that many patients have suboptimal metformin adherence and persistence. Persistence refers to whether a person stays on a therapy, while adherence refers to whether a person takes a medication according to the prescribed schedule. Suboptimal metformin adherence and persistence are important because they are associated with a higher risk of diabetes complications.

We will use routinely collected health data to (a) describe the patterns of metformin adherence and persistence in New Zealanders with T2DM, and (b) investigate the predictors and consequences of suboptimal adherence and persistence. We will also interview people with T2DM to get their views on what helps, and hinders, good metformin adherence and persistence. The findings will contribute to improved outcomes for people prescribed metformin.