Lamotrigine brand change from today

Media release

From today there will be one funded brand of lamotrigine - a medicine used to treat epilepsy and some mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder.

There are several suppliers that make lamotrigine – each with their own brand. PHARMAC has decided to change from funding three different brands (Lamictal, Arrow-Lamotrigine and Logem) to funding the Logem brand only.

Before making this decision PHARMAC got expert advice from healthcare professionals who work directly with people with epilepsy and mental health conditions to make sure it’s appropriate for people to change brands of lamotrigine.

“Logem works in the same way as the other two Lamotrigine brands. Logem has the same active ingredient and is delivered to the body in the same way. 

“We know change can be difficult for some people,” says PHARMAC’s director of operations Lisa Williams. “But clinical experts have told us people shouldn’t notice a difference when changing to Logem.”

A very small number of people aren’t able to switch brands due to complicated medical reasons. PHARMAC will continue to fund the brand they are currently on through our exceptional circumstances programme. So far there have been ten successful applications for ongoing funding of other brands of lamotrigine through this process. 

Dispensing data for 2018 shows that around half of all patients who collected a funded prescription for lamotrigine, have changed brands at least once since they started on lamotrigine. Around 4,000 patients have changed brands two or more times.

“What could have happened is patients were given whichever lamotrigine a pharmacy had in stock. Without knowing it they might have one brand one month, and a different brand the next.”

Moving to a single funded brand of lamotrigine will avoid ongoing, potentially unmanaged, brand changes for patients.

“We have made this change gradually. We started talking publicly about the possibility of this change more than 12 months ago, and starting from May 2019, patients have had five months to move to the new brand of their medicine.”

Following the change to the Logem brand some people might want to discuss concerns with their GP and get additional support to make a successful change. In these cases, the GP can waive the patient’s visit co-payment and PHARMAC will reimburse the GP clinic on invoice.

Changing the funded brand of medicines is one of the ways that PHARMAC is able to get good deals with suppliers and make more new medicines available.

“Changing to Logem means we’ll free up more than $30 million over the next five years. All this money will be used to fund other medicines for New Zealanders.”