5 Jun 2020

Review backs epilepsy drug funding, despite suspected deaths

2:17 pm on 5 June 2020

An independent review has backed Pharmac's decision to switch its epilepsy drug funding to a generic brand.

The Logem brand of lamotrigine, which a woman with epilepsy was taking when she died. 
A sticker on it said it was the same medication she had previously been taking.

Pharmac's decision to fund Logem epilepsy medication has been upheld by an independent review. Photo: Supplied

Five deaths last year were suspected of being related to the brand switch, but this was not investigated as part of the review by Claro Law.

It said it was not investigating the possibility Pharmac's 'sole supply' decision caused or contributed to the deaths, as that it was a matter for the coroner.

About 11,000 people, most with epilepsy but some with mental health conditions, began switching to a generic form of the drug lamotrigine, called Logem, last year.

Claro Law found Pharmac's processes were evidence based, robust and of a high standard.

But the review noted it would have been preferable if Pharmac had sought further input from its Pharmacological and Therapeutics Advisory Committee and had involved its consumer advisory group.

"We are pleased with the findings, but we are always looking to improve our work.

"This review confirms that we need to focus more on consumer input, improving how we incorporate their views into our decisions," said chief executive Sarah Fitt.

The review highlighted the "significant" role of the media reporting on the brand changes.

Pharmac acknowledged there was work to do in helping the public understand its decision making processes.

"We are keen to work with media to make sure that they are receiving the information they need to report accurately to the public, while also noting the significant responsibility they have in ensuring the public are provided with balanced information that doesn't cause undue concern," Fitt said.

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