NZORD Newsletter 2005 #8 - 9 August 2005

Hello everyone,

In this issue:
1 - Time for an urgent review of the restrictions on Xenotransplantation.
2 - Increased pharmaceutical budget for 2005-06.
3 - Healthline now a free 24-hour service nationwide.
4 - Pandemic preparedness.
5 - Three important conferences: Consumer Voices, Screening Challenges and Opportunities, and Medical Sciences Congress.
6 - Events Calendar update.

1 - Time for an urgent review of the restrictions on Xenotransplantation.
News of significant success in pre-clinical studies on an animal model of Huntington’s disease by New Zealand company Living Cell Technologies Ltd, adds strongly to other very good reasons for a review of the current restrictions on Xenotransplantation medical research. Click here for a NZ Herald article on this development. [Link not working]
Follow this link to read why the restrictions were put in place here and overseas, and why the time is right for New Zealand to lift the restrictions on this important medical research.

2 - Increased pharmaceutical budget for 2005-06. There is some good news in the recent announcement by Pharmac that the Minister of Health has approved a 3.2% increase in pharmaceutical expenditure for the current financial year, to a nominal total of $582 million. A boost in funding has been sorely needed. Click here for the Pharmac press release. But serious doubts remain about the adequacy of pharmaceutical expenditure in New Zealand. Given that contract arrangements with pharmaceutical companies lead to significant rebates back through Pharmac to the District Health Boards, the real expenditure is much less than the nominal budget.

In the past decade New Zealand’s expenditure per head on pharmaceuticals has dropped from approximate parity with Australian expenditure, to approximately one half.
Some of this relates to the very good work Pharmac has done in controlling blowouts in drug costs, but negative consequences have been curtailed access to drugs for many health conditions, and fewer new improved drugs being available in New Zealand compared to Australia and elsewhere. Current medicines policy is creating new areas of inequities in health access and new areas of health disparities, as many groups have been denied subsidies for drugs that are essential for their health conditions. The right of New Zealanders to get reasonable access to subsidised medicines, balanced with the use of Pharmac as a way of controlling access and costs, stand out as an issue in great need of high level reassessment by government.

3 - Healthline now a free 24-hour service nationwide.
Healthline, incorporating PlunketLine, is now a free 24-hour nationwide health advice service. Free on landlines or cellphones the number is 0800 611 116.
Healthline registered nurses assess a person’s condition and health needs and recommend the best course of action and a time-frame in which to take action. They can also provide general health information and location of services. The Healthline service incorporates PlunketLine, with Plunket nurses available to provide a Well Child service, including parenting advice, child health promotion and education. Click here for more details from the Ministry of Health website.

NZORD is pleased to see the extension of this service nationwide and free. It is a very good example of modern communications being combined with primary health advice to improve options for families with health concerns. It will be especially valuable to those with transport difficulties or in remote areas, and will help all families get good advice about health concerns at any time.

4 - Pandemic preparedness.
Continued concerns internationally about the possible outbreak of a pandemic, such as avian flu, has been responded to by the Ministry of Health with a pandemic preparedness plan that has been progressively developed since the late 1990s. Actions include stockpiling of infection control supplies and anti-viral medication. A recent press release from the Ministry of Health [link no longer active] gives an update on progress with this plan. Another item of great interest to this topic is a New York Times article reporting US government scientists discussing successful trials of a vaccine for avian Flu. Note: the link requires registration to access the article on the NY Times website, but registration is free.

5 - Three important conferences: Consumer Voices, Screening Challenges and Opportunities, and Medical Sciences Congress.
These three conferences offer support groups a chance to be involved in key discussions on matters relevant to their interests, and we encourage groups to take part in these to help influence policy and priorities, and build networks with key professionals. NZORD is actively involved with organising the Consumers Summit and the Medical Sciences Congress.

Screening Symposium 2005 - Screening to Improve Health: Challenges and Opportunities
3 - 4 October 2005, Te Papa, Wellington
For details contact: Email Website [link no longer active]

National Health Consumers' Summit 2005: Strengthening Consumer Voices
31 October - 1 November 2005, Waipuna Hotel & Conference Centre, Auckland
For details contact: Leonie Brunt, NZ Guidelines Group Email Website

Medical Sciences Congress 2005
6 - 9 December 2005, Millennium Hotel Queenstown, Queenstown, New Zealand
For details contact: Email Website

6 - Events Calendar update.
Recent additions to our Events Calendar include the October conferences of the Youth Suicide Prevention Network, and the Stillbirth and Newborn Death Support Group.
Click here for the full list.

Regards, John

John Forman
Executive Director