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

Pharmac has responded to concerns about a brand switch to the generic epilepsy drug, Logem, widening its funding criteria to enable patients to stay on drugs that work best for them.

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

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.

Medicine’s regulator, 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.”

Some experts refer to Lamotrigine while discussing the brand switch. Lamotrigine is the active ingredient or drug in the epilepsy medication. Logem is the brand name.  

Pharmac says applications will be processed quickly and the chances of rejection are low.