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Authorities now investigating fourth death of person taking Pharmac-funded epilepsy drug


A fourth death has been reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM) after a man who had been taking the drug Logem for two weeks died of a seizure.

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Authorities are looking into the deaths of four people who died after switching from Lamotrigine to its generic substitute, Logem. Source: 1 NEWS

Three deaths have already been reported to CARM after Pharmac stopped funding the medicine Lamotrigine, used to treat epilepsy and mental health conditions. The agency instead switched to the generic form of the drug, Logem.

Three deaths reported following Pharmac epilepsy drug switch

Today, 1 NEWS became aware of the death of 26-year-old Will Oliver from Dunedin who died in August after having a seizure and who had been on Logem for two weeks.

The coroner confirmed to his mother, Jo Oliver, this morning that a seizure was the cause of death.

In a statement today, Medsafe says it advised Pharmac early this afternoon of a report to CARM of a fourth fatality that was received yesterday.

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

“Medsafe has very limited details on the case, and advises us that CARM is currently seeking more information from the treating physician. Pharmac will continue to liaise with Medsafe on adverse event reports and Medsafe’s analysis of them,” the statement said.

Today, Pharmac responded to concerns about the brand switch, widening its funding criteria to enable patients to stay on drugs that work best for them.

The drug buying agency’s move comes just months into the rollout of Logem, which - against expert advice - became the sole anti-epileptic drug funded by Pharmac.

The decision to only fund Logem was opposed by Epilepsy NZ on behalf of the country’s 50,000 patients on epilepsy medication.

Medsafe also warned against the decision, which offered Pharmac savings of $30 million.

Earlier this week, Medsafe issued a health alert about Logem in the wake of a number of concerning adverse reaction reports, including three deaths which have been referred to the coroner.

The cause of the three deaths is currently unknown.

Today’s decision simplifies the process to enable other epilepsy drugs to be funded.

“We've heard very clearly that a lot of people and their families are worried and concerned about this brand switch of Lamotrigine,” says Dr Ken Clark, Pharmac’s medical director.

“We are responding to ensure that people who for good reasons need to stay on their previous brand, that they can.”