Government Drug Agency, Pharmac, is in the process of doing away with a commonly used antidepressant, Aropax.
Pharmac intends to phase out the 'Aropax' brand of paroxetine and bring in the generic alternative 'Loxamine'. It is estimated that Aropax is used by about 49,000 New Zealanders.
This move has drawn flak from psychiatrists in Australasia. Yet, the agency maintains that both drugs are the same, except for the appearance and the packaging. Further, this move is expected to result in a saving of $45 million over a three year period.
Dr Allen Fraser, chairman of the New Zealand national committee of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, said, "What concerns the college is the insistence in this process that patients currently on paroxetine, the Aropax form, must either pay for it, or be changed to the new form. We had advocated that where the clinician prescribing the medication believed it was in the patient's interest to remain on their current medication, it should remain fully subsidized for those persons. They clearly have not accepted that as a standard. We will still be pursuing that because that's the major issue for us. If patients have been doing well on their current medication, they deserve to still have access to it."
Pharmac deputy medical director Dr Dilky Rasiah said, "At present, people prescribed paroxetine for the first time need to have previously had a trial of fluoxetine, another antidepressant. Once Loxamine is funded, it will not be subject to this requirement, which will give people easier access to it."
Dr Rasiah said that tests have confirmed the effectiveness of Loxamine brand, at par with Aropax , so patients will not experience any difficulties with change in drug.