Aripiprazole: Aripiprazole Sandoz is the new funded brand and restrictions have been removed
Aripiprazole is a medicine used to treat to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and to ease autism-related irritability.
What is changing?
The brand of aripiprazole available to patients is changing.
The brand funded in New Zealand until 1 June 2018 is called Abilify. The brand funded from 1 June 2018 is called Aripiprazole Sandoz.
This means that patients who take aripiprazole will take a different brand of the same medication. This change also means more people can be prescribed aripiprazole by their doctor without having to go to a specialist.
What will stay the same?
Abilify and Aripiprazole Sandoz have the same effect in the body. This means that Aripiprazole Sandoz will work in the same way as Abilify.
Patients who start taking Aripiprazole Sandoz instead of Abilify should not notice any change in how the medicine affects them.
Aripiprazole Sandoz has been thoroughly evaluated by Medsafe (which is part of the Ministry of Health and ensures the safety of medicines in New Zealand) to ensure the medicine is safe and works the same as other brands.
The new brand will look slightly different but it contains the same active ingredient as the old brand.
The new brand of tablets will look different
Why is the change occurring?
This change is being made by PHARMAC, the government agency that decides which medicines are funded in New Zealand. PHARMAC also decides which brands of certain medicines will offer the best outcomes for the greatest number of people.
In the case of aripiprazole, a change from the brand Abilify to the brand Aripiprazole Sandoz will ensure more people can be prescribed aripiprazole by their doctor without having to go to a specialist. Aripiprazole will thus be available to more people.
A further benefit of this change is that PHARMAC’s limited budget can be used to fund a greater number of other medicines in the community, ensuring that more New Zealanders have access to the medicines they need.
A decision to change a medicine, especially one as important as aripiprazole, isn’t taken lightly. PHARMAC has received expert advice from clinicians about the appropriateness of making this change.
As stated above, patients who start taking Aripiprazole Sandoz instead of Abilify should not notice any change in how the medicine affects them.
When will the change occur?
The new brand is available from 1 June 2018.
Some changes will happen on 1 June 2018, while other changes will happen gradually.
- From 1 June 2018 Aripiprazole Sandoz will be fully funded and available from pharmacies.
- From 1 June 2018 it will no longer be a requirement that only specialists can prescribe Aripiprazole Sandoz.
- From 1 August 2018 the dispensing quantity rule of “No more than 1 tab per day” will not apply.
- From 1 November 2018 only Aripiprazole Sandoz will be fully funded. This means that patients will only pay the $5 pharmacy co-payment fee when collecting their medicine.
- From 1 November 2018 Abilify will no longer be funded. If you do want to keep using Abilify instead of the new brand, you can ask your pharmacist how much it will cost and whether it will be available. After 1 November 2018, PHARMAC will not be able to guarantee the price or availability of Abilify.
Can I still request my preferred brand of aripiprazole?
You do have the option of asking to stay on your current medication. However, because Abilify will no longer be funded by PHARMAC, it may no longer be available to purchase, or if it is, you may need to pay the full cost.
The new medicine, Aripiprazole Sandoz will work in the same way as Abilify. If you have concerns you talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
What should I do if I have questions or concerns?
If you have any questions or concerns about the change to a new brand, you should talk with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
There is more information about medicines and changes to medicines on PHARMAC’s website: The facts about generic and biosimilar medicines.
You can also get more information from us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0800 66 00 50.
For healthcare professionals
Healthcare professionals play an important role in supporting patients through changes to their medicines. We’d like to support you as you help your patients through the aripiprazole brand change.
We’ve prepared some material for you to share with patients and caregivers as they change brands.
Here is the patient information leaflet that you can download and print.
Key points to tell your patients about Aripiprazole Sandoz
- Aripiprazole Sandoz has the same active ingredient (aripiprazole) as other brands. This means the new medication is just as safe and works exactly the same as the old brand. Patients shouldn’t notice any difference in how it affects them.
- Aripiprazole Sandoz will look different to Abilify, but this will not affect how well the medicine works for them.
It’s important to note that people who may take or may benefit from taking aripiprazole, particularly people with autism spectrum disorder, may find the change in brand challenging to process. It is therefore very important to provide patients with as much information as possible, and to ensure that they have as much time as possible to process the change before it comes into effect.
Brand changes are common and, as a healthcare professional, you play a critical role in making the transition smooth for patients. Learn more at: Learn online - beyond the brand(external link).
Last updated: 12 February 2020