Patients who require special funding for antidepressants, rejected by Pharmac

Last year, the Pharmaceutical Management Agency in New Zealand (Pharmac) stopped subsidizing two brands of antidepressants, Arrow Venlafaxine and Effexor XR, and replaced them with a cheaper brand, Enlafax.

Venlafaxine, a medication for reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression

Venlafaxine, a medication for reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression
Photo: AFP

Some patients, who said they had adverse effects after changing the brand of antidepressants, had applied for special funding for their old brand, but were rejected.

Under the law on official information, RNZ found 28 applications from Pharmac for special financing for antidepressants that were no longer subsidized.

One of those applications has been withdrawn, the other 27 have been rejected.

Heather Williams said she had used the old brand for years without any problems, but noted that she was angry and annoyed within weeks of changing medication.

"The anger was pretty strict and it did not seem to match or relate to something that was going on, and then my mood dropped and I started to have thoughts about self-harm and suicide, which has not been around for a long time. time, & # 39; she said.

Mrs. Williams said her first request to Pharmac had been rejected and she was still waiting to be heard about her second request.

She had since set up a group online for others who had negative side effects and had researched ways in which people could get their medication subsidized.

It was only by talking to Pharmac that she discovered the Namaged Patient Pharmaceutical Assessment (NPPA) process, allowing patients to request medication that they need and that are not funded by Pharmac.

Sarah Macrae said she also noticed a difference in changing antidepressant, but initially thought nothing about it because she was advised that the drug would work the same.

"I started to feel a bit too little, I assumed that it was only tensions in my life, which had to do with four preschoolers, but in mid-August I had a huge collapse, anxiety attacks, could not tolerate sound.

"I was stressed, angry, my spatial insight was gone and I crashed my car three times and I have never done that in 23 years before.

"There were so many signs, but I did not look or pay any attention to them," she said.

Macrae said when she finally talked to her doctor about switching back to the old medicine, he did not even know that she could request Pharmac for special financing.

"He followed me for six weeks until I was stable again.

"At that time I saw him maybe three times and every time we talked about the costs of Effexor and we had to pay for it and he kept telling me that he did not know how to get this financed, there could be a way but he did not know how, "she said.

Ms Macrae recently became aware of requesting a special funding application from Pharmac, but was rejected.

She thought it was better to pay only the $ 50 for the medication herself, instead of paying to go to a doctor and have another request rejected.

Pharmac managing director Lisa Williams said that all special funding requests for individual earnings were assessed, but the 27 applications had not met any core policy principles.

"People must first have tried all existing funded alternatives before being approved for funding for an unfunded drug and their clinical circumstances must be exceptional," she said.

Mrs Williams said she was surprised that people did not know about the NPPA process that allows patients to receive money for non-subsidized medication.

"Maybe we should do even more to promote that process … we get around 1,400 NPPA applications every year," she said.

Pharmac would not consider changing the funding unless the regulator, MedSafe advised them for a reason to be concerned.

The advice they have received is Enlafax works the same as the previously funded drugs, Williams said.

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