22 Sep 2023

ACT reveals seniors policy including reversing pseudoephedrine ban

6:21 pm on 22 September 2023
ACT leader David Seymour discusses the party's alternative budget.

ACT leader David Seymour discusses the party's alternative budget. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

The ACT Party wants to bring back over-the-counter pseudoephedrine, make it easier to get some other drugs, and make changes to the Retirement Commission as part of its seniors policy.

The party said it would:

  • Reform the Retirement Commission so that it remains largely focused on retirement villages and ageing-in-place
  • Require the Commission to develop a framework for enabling widespread individualised funding of in-home care
  • Reverse the ban on over-the-counter pseudoephedrine
  • Require post-implementation evaluations of pharmacist-only and prescription-only classifications for medicines used to cure common ailments
  • Introduce a range of policies to ease the health workforce crisis and ensure there is proper planning and forecasting to meet the needs of an ageing population

Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant used in cold and flu medications. Over-the-counter sales of medicines containing the drug was banned in 2011 by the then National-led government, due to fears it would be used for methanphetamine production.

Party leader David Seymour said older New Zealanders had noticed that buying effective over-the-counter cold and flu medication was getting harder.

"Pseudoephedrine was banned because of fears it would be used for P production and following assurances there would be alternatives. Instead, the evidence shows that gangs continue to produce P, and there are no viable alternatives for people who are unwell."

The post-implementation evaluations would mean prescription-only medications could become easier to access.

"If the medicine has restricted access because it poses risks to the user the Ministry of Health should explore options for how to best reflect that risk," the party's policy said.

"There are more effective ways of ensuring patients are aware of risks. For example, rather than requiring patients to have a consultation with a pharmacist, patients purchasing goods online might instead have to agree to an online declaration that they understand the risks associated with the medicine."

The changes to the Retirement Commission would reduce its role to two primary focuses. The policy said the current commission put significant time and resources into writing policy and research that could easily be replicated by other government departments.

"The real shame is, as the population ages, there should be more action going into how support New Zealand's ageing population in retirement. Instead, older people are being poorly served by an impotent bureaucracy."

Seymour said the move towards individualised funding would give retirees greater autonomy over how in-care funding is spent. It would "enable older people and their families to organise and manage their care in a way that most appropriately suits their needs, fitting with their lifestyle and empowering them to make their own choices about service providers."

The party has also previously announced plans to scrap government contributions to the NZ Superannuation Fund, and on Thursday re-confirmed its plans to raise the age of eligibility, but at a faster rate than previously proposed: increasing by three months each year rather than two months.

Hipkins offers tentative support over pseudoephedrine

Labour's leader Chris Hipkins said he would be open to pseudoephedrine being sold over the counter again.

"It was something that the John Key government banned ... it didn't result in any kind of reduction in methamphetamine consumption in New Zealand, in fact we've seen the opposite.

"What it has meant is people have found it much more difficult to get access to the most effective over the counter cold and flu medicines."

He said he was open to the idea but it would need to be looked into, and it was not something he was committing to as an election policy.