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Chief Coroner opens joint inquiry into deaths linked to anti-epileptic medication

A joint inquiry is being launched into the deaths of four people referred to the Coroner over the past months which were linked to an anti-epileptic drug.

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Patients have been told to keep taking the drug Logem, despite concerns. Source: 1 NEWS

Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall is investigating the drug Logem, which contains the anticonvulsant drug Lamotrigine. 

“Because of the high public interest in these cases, and the effect on people’s wellbeing, I have decided to open a joint inquiry into these deaths to investigate the cause and circumstances and see if they could have been prevented in any way,” Ms Marshall said.

“My inquiry will look at whether the change in brand to Logem may have changed the seizure control and whether that contributed to the deaths.”

The Coroner will look at each death on its own them summarise the cases together, and if appropriate, make recommendations on how the deaths could have been prevented.

A joint inquiry means an inquiry in which the Coroner looks into more than one death.

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Three deaths reported following Pharmac epilepsy drug switch

Last month, RNZ reported about 11,000 people - most with epilepsy but some with mental health conditions - were switching to Logem.

Three deaths were reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM) after Pharmac forced patients using the medicine lamotrigine to switch brands to Logem.

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Funding for epilepsy drugs widened after health concerns about switch to generic brand

Logem was rolled out, against expert advice, as the sole anti-epileptic drug funded by Pharmac - but in response to concerns, the drug buying agency later last month widened its funding criteria to enable patients to stay on drugs that work best for them.

The decision to only fund Logem was opposed by Epilepsy NZ on behalf of the country’s 50,000 patients on epilepsy medication. Medicine’s regulator, Medsafe, also warned against the decision which offered Pharmac savings of $30 million.