PHARMAC seeking views on new brand of primidone

PHARMAC has reached a provisional agreement with medicine supplier Teva to fund a new brand of primidone which is most commonly used to treat and prevent seizures in people with epilepsy.

The current supplier of primidone, Apotex, is discontinuing supply to New Zealand in October 2021. This was not a decision PHARMAC had control over, and our clinical experts have told us continued access to this medicine is essential. 

“We are looking to fund an alternative brand so Kiwis can keep taking their medicine,” says PHARMAC’s director of operations Lisa Williams.

“We’ve secured another supplier, Teva, but it will mean the 800 people taking primidone will need to change brand,” says Ms Williams.  

Teva will be applying to Medsafe for approval of its brand of primidone, but it would initially be supplied in accordance with section 29 of the Medicines Act 1981(external link).

“Our clinical experts have told us that having access to an unapproved medicine is better than having no supply of primidone.

Primidone is classified in the United Kingdom (UK) as a category 1 epilepsy medicine with the advice to prescribers that patients be maintained on a specific brand(external link). “We acknowledge that a brand change for primidone is not recommended. Unfortunately, this is the only option to secure ongoing supply of primidone to New Zealand,” says Ms Williams.

We are also consulting on another provisional agreement to fund a new brand of gabapentin, also used to treat and prevent seizures in people with epilepsy. Gabapentin is classified in the UK as a category 3 medicine.

The advice to prescribers for category 3 medicines is that the potential for clinically relevant differences to exist between different manufacturers’ products is extremely low. However, we will be ensuring that prescribers are advised to consider other patient/carer-related factors, such as negative perceptions about alternative products and/or other issues related to the patient. We have undertaken a number of brand changes for gabapentin, most recently in 2018 when supply was awarded to Apotex.

“We know, from the lamotrigine brand change, that we need to do everything we can, working alongside the Ministry of Health and others, to make sure the 800 people taking primidone are aware of the potential change.

People currently taking primidone should continue taking it. No changes have occurred yet. If they have questions, they should talk about their options with their doctor.