12 Oct 2011

Pharmac faulted for delay in approving heart drug

12:00 pm on 12 October 2011

An Auckland heart specialist says the drug-buying agency Pharmac is taking too long to decide whether to fund a promising new heart drug.

A cardiologist at Green Lane Hospital, Harvey White, says the anti-clotting agent ticagrelor, used to treat patients who've had heart attacks, can save more lives than the standard treatment, clopidrogel.

Professor White says the new drug is more effective on Maori and Pacific Island patients, but is only available to patients who can pay for it.

Pharmac's medical director, Peter Moodie, says the drug was registered in mid-August and the agency only received an application to fund it late that month.

Dr Moodie says new drugs are always coming through, but a decision to fund a multi-million-dollar drug takes time and the agency can't go any more quickly than it is going.

Pharmac's clinical advisory committee, known as PTAC, will consider the matter at its next meeting, early next month.

Professor White says that is not fast enough for a drug that specialists have been aware of for more than a year.