Questions and answers for patients
Why did PHARMAC change the brand of my medicine?
There can be several reasons why this happens.
- The manufacturer of the medicine removes it from New Zealand and so an alternative is provided at no additional cost to you.
- The manufacturer changes the name of the medicine.
- A replacement medicine has become available that is either more effective or has a better price.
PHARMAC runs a competitive tender process for many medicines where suppliers compete to supply the only funded brand (usually for around 3 years). Getting a good price for quality medicines means that more money can be freed up to fund other medicines to treat people in our communities.
Read about current brand changes: My medicine has changed.
The new brand of my medicine is not working as well for me.
Ensure you talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any concerns you have about your medicine. It is their job to ensure your medicine works for you.
Although the brand of medicine has changed, it will still use the same active ingredients and is expected to give you the same health benefit. However, if you feel different you must talk to your doctor. If you have a negative reaction, you could ask your doctor or pharmacist to send a report to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring(external link) who collect and evaluate reports of any issues with brand changes. Ask your doctor about your treatment options and whether there is an alternative funded medicine that would be suitable for you.
I want to keep taking the old brand of my medicine. Will it continue to be available?
Once we stop funding the old brand, we can’t guarantee it will remain available and how much it will cost. You should talk to your doctor if the new brand is not working for you. You could also contact the supplier who may be able to provide further information about whether they intend to continue supplying their product in NZ.
I am concerned that generic medicines are of lower quality.
Generic medicines are new brands of medicines made by companies that didn’t develop the medicine themselves. A generic medicine will contain the same active ingredient at the same dose as the original brand. Although a generic medicine costs less, it will still work as well as the more expensive medicine.
- All generic medicines have to be approved by Medsafe and are carefully considered to make sure that they work the same way as the original brand of that medicine.
- Like all medicines that PHARMAC funds, generic medicines must meet international standards for quality and effectiveness.
- The manufacturing site for each medicine must be approved by an acceptable regulatory authority (Europe, USA, Australia, NZ) and undergo regular audits to ensure it maintains standards.
I want to know about possible side effects from my medicine.
All medicines have risks and benefits. You must talk to your doctor or pharmacist about side effects. You can also visit the Medsafe website(external link) and look for Consumer Medicine Information for your medicine.
The medicine recommended by my doctor is not funded. How do I find out if PHARMAC has considered funding this medicine?
You can search for the medicine in our online Application Tracker. Enter the medicine name into the ‘How can we help you’ box on our home page and select the funding applications box.
The funded medicines are not working for me. Is there any way I can get funding for a medicine that is not funded?
You should talk to your doctor about this. We do have an exceptions policy for funding a medicine for an individual patient. All funded options must be tried or considered first. Ask your doctor or other prescriber to consider applying for Named Patient Pharmaceutical Assessment (NPPA).
It says that the medicine has been recommended for funding with low priority. What does that mean?
The medicine has been considered by our clinical advisory committee, PTAC, who have recommended funding with a suggested priority. When funds are available, it will be considered alongside alongside all other funding applications that have positive recommendations from PTAC.
It says that the medicine has been ranked? What does that mean?
“Ranked” means that it has been placed on a list of all the medicines we are currently considering for funding. There is no time frame and no guarantee it will be funded. When funds are available, it will be considered alongside other medicines on the list. We consider many issues including how effective the medicine is and how costly it is. It may be that another medicine is introduced to the list that is more effective and therefore pushes that one further down the list. This is why it is not possible to put a timeframe on it. Just being on the list doesn’t mean it will be funded in future.
When will PHARMAC fund the medicine?
Unfortunately we are unable to provide a definitive timeframe for if, or when, a funding decision would be made for a medicine. This is because the relative priority of funding one medicine compared with other medicines can change over time. Details like the relative health benefits, the amount of funding available, the success of negotiations with the suppliers and/or new clinical data, and the mix of other funding applications being considered at any one time, are all examples of factors that may change the relative priorities of funding choices. Just being on the list doesn’t mean it will be funded in future.
I am currently living overseas and want to return to New Zealand. Will my medicines be funded in New Zealand?
You can check to see if the medicines are funded by searching our Pharmaceutical Schedule.
My doctor has recommended a treatment that is not available in New Zealand. Can I import it?
If the treatment is a prescription-only medicine, you will need your doctor’s permission to import it. Medsafe provides more information on importing medicines(external link).
My doctor has made an application to PHARMAC for funding of a medicine for me. How can I find out whether the application has been approved?
PHARMAC will keep in touch with the prescriber who submitted the application. Ask your prescriber for an update. If you are waiting for an approval number, your pharmacist can check to see if one has been issued.
What is a Special Authority?
Special Authorities are processed by Sector Services, Ministry of Health, and they can answer your enquiries about the progress of an application. Contact them by calling 0800 243 666 option 1.
PHARMAC may put a ‘Special Authority’ restriction on a medicine to target funded access to the medicine to patients who will benefit the most. Your doctor or other prescriber can apply for Special Authority approval for you if the criteria are met. If approved, the medicine will be funded for you. You can look at the criteria for a medicine by entering the medicine name here and clicking on the blue SA number to see the form. Once a Special Authority is approved, the Ministry of Health issue an approval number. Your doctor or other prescriber will put this number on each prescription of your medicine.
PHARMAC has received a number of enquiries from patients with Helicobacter pylori who have been charged for clarithromycin.
Clarithromycin 500 mg tablets, up to a maximum of 14 tablets per prescription, are funded for the treatment of H. pylori when prescribed in combination with a proton pump inhibitor and either amoxicillin or metronidazole.
We suggest that pharmacists contact the prescriber if the 250 mg tab clarithromycin is prescribed to let them know the 500 mg tablet is funded.
Why can’t I collect all three months of my medicine at one time?
There are several reasons why some prescription medicines are unable to be collected in three-monthly lots (known as ‘stat’ dispensing); they include safety, medication stability, medication expiry, medication cost and the potential for medication wastage.
- For many medicines, your doctor or pharmacist may determine how often you collect your medicine. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what is best for you.
- Some medicines are collected more frequently than monthly. There may be laws or rules determining how they are dispensed. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain.
- For some medicines PHARMAC may require that the medicine be collected one month at a time. This may be temporary or long term. There may be different reasons for this for each medicine.
- If you are going away on holiday or if you live far from the pharmacy, talk to your pharmacist. There are some exceptions.
My pharmacist has charged me more than usual for my medicine. Why?
The medicine may no longer be fully funded. Ask your pharmacist, doctor or other prescriber if there is a fully funded option.
A prescription written by a private specialist or dentist may cost more.
The pharmacist may have charged for an additional service eg a faxed prescription or additional packaging.
Ask your pharmacist to explain the additional charges and how you could avoid them.
Last updated: 8 February 2019