Free audio stream, including stories that are padlocked on our site. Listen on any device, anywhere. Updated twice daily. The audio stream takes several seconds to start on Android devices.Launch Radio player
Reformulated thyroid drug Eltroxin, which has caused strong reactions since June among many New Zealanders previously fine with the old version, is about to be supplemented by two alternatives.
Minister of Health David Cunliffe talked up the “rapid” action by Pharmac and Medsafe in getting the substitutes on the market by November 1.
"I am aware of the effort that has gone into getting these drugs up and running for New Zealanders who are experiencing a bad reaction to the new formula Eltroxin.
"This must bring a measure of reassurance and comfort to the 700 New Zealanders that have been reporting adverse reactions since the new formula was introduced to the country last year."
Pharmac has managed to fast track the approval process so one of the products, Goldshield's Levothyroxine (Eltroxin alternative) will be fully funded from November 1.
"I would, however, note that Medsafe has made it clear that patients who change to the new formulations must continue to be monitored by a doctor," Mr Cunliffe said.
National Party associate spokeswoman for health Dr Jackie Blue was, however, scathing about the time taken to approve the alternatives.
“Well, it’s taken months hasn’t it? When this started to break earlier this year; I remember six months ago we were in the select committee quizzing David Cunliffe on this issue, and basically it’s taken months to get this option. In the meantime people’s health have been wrecked!”
Dr Blue says the alternatives appear to working well with no reported side effects – or at least she hasn’t heard any bad feedback from users who have been sourcing the drugs privately at their own expense.
“I haven’t heard any bad reports about them, from what I understand these drugs have already been used privately by people who’ve accessed them and been happy to pay for their use. I’m just pleased they’re available finally because it’s taken an awful long time really.”
No one has been able to figure why the reformulated Eltroxin has been causing the severe side-effects, says Dr Blue, but it’s definitely not a psychosomatic reaction.
“Clearly something really bad has been happening; no one’s ever quite pinned down exactly what the problem’s been and why people have been metabolising a different way, why the levels have been so strange and people have been unstable on the medication. No one’s ever had any answers why.
“Stewart Jessamine went on TV and said, ‘well look the new formulation of Eltroxin has been used in other countries and everyone’s been perfectly fine, and therefore... sort of hinting that it’s psychosomatic –but it’s not psychosomatic! When we have pets that have gone strange on the new formulation Eltroxin it’s certainly not psychosomatic.”