New agreement provides new medicines, saves millions

Media release Medicines

A new agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will see two newly listed medicines, improved access to commonly used asthma inhalers, and millions of dollars of savings.

The agreement with the international pharmaceutical company includes five products, three of which – the asthma inhalers fluticasone (Flixotide), salmeterol (Serevent) and the combination inhaler Seretide – are already funded.

PHARMAC will remove the Special Authority criteria from Seretide, which is currently used by 74,000 New Zealanders with chronic asthma, which will mean anyone whose doctor thinks they need it can have it funded.

PHARMAC will also list the anti-viral influenza treatment zanamavir (Relenza) and the new blood disorder drug eltrombopag (Revolade), while the price will reduce on all three asthma inhalers.

Altogether, the changes will produce savings greater than $20 million over five years.

Director of Operations Sarah Fitt says the agreement is the result of PHARMAC’s negotiations with GSK on its range of products.

“The end result will be an expansion in medicines access for New Zealanders, at a lower cost to the taxpayer,” she says.

“This agreement has several benefits. New medicines are funded, including a new drug for a rare blood disorder. For asthma patients who could benefit from access to Seretide, it makes funded access easier by removing the need to apply for authorisation, lifting an administrative barrier which is in line with the Government’s aim to make healthcare better, sooner and more convenient.”

“And overall, because of the price reduction on asthma inhalers, there will be savings of millions of dollars each year. This is important, because it frees up funding that PHARMAC or District Health Boards can use to purchase other healthcare.”

Sarah Fitt says New Zealand has comparatively high rates of asthma and increasing access to the combination inhaler will be welcomed.

As illustrated in PHARMAC’s 2013 Annual Review, published last week, Seretide is one of the highest-cost medicines by gross spending on the Pharmaceutical Schedule, accounting for $21.4 million of subsidies last year.

Eltrombopag, which can increase blood platelet counts and reduce bleeding risk, will be funded for people with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a rare blood disorder which puts people at higher risk of severe bleeding.

Funding for eltrombopag will be targeted to people with more severe forms of ITP, who have already tried other available treatments, including splenectomy (spleen removal).

Changes will take effect from 1 January 2014.