Open letter to Annette King, Minister of Health, New Zealand: Official response is misleading

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7463.460-c (Published 19 August 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:460
  1. David Coulter, retired (dmcoulter{at}xtra.co.nz)
  1. 264 Highgate, Roslyn, Dunedin 9001, New Zealand

    EDITOR—Matheson says that it is misleading for Herxheimer in his open letter to New Zealand's health minister to report that Medsafe, the New Zealand medicines regulator, intended to stop funding the intensive medicines monitoring programme (previous letter).1 2 Notice was given to the University of Otago on 4 March 2004 that funding would be withdrawn as of 30 June. Medsafe's intention was demonstrated further by the withdrawal of all usual references to the programme from the latest issue of their publication Prescriber Update, and from their web site. It is Matheson's letter that is misleading.

    Matheson is also critical of the fact that the collection of data comes from multiple sources and is largely paper-based. He overlooks the fact that the programme has no operational alternative because of failure of Medsafe or the ministry to have prescriptions for monitored medicines recorded by a central agency. This is in spite of several promptings.

    Matheson's letter implies that the methods of the intensive medicines monitoring programme have changed little from the 1970s and that the programme has not adapted to the needs of modern pharmacovigilance. The many letters of support to the director general and minister from experts around the world testify to the fact that the programme is regarded as being at the leading edge of modern pharmacovigilance.

    The minister should feel embarrassed at the level of response provided on her behalf.


    • Competing interests DMC was until recently director of the intensive medicines monitoring programme.


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