7 September 2001
Warning Bells As New Zealand's No 1 Drug Linked To Asthma -Greens
Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley is calling on Pharmac to work with doctors and pharmacies to try to reduce
New Zealand's extraordinarily high consumption of the pharmaceutical drug paracetamol, following the release of an
international study which links high use of the painkiller with a surge in asthma cases.
"The Minister of Health confirmed in answer to a parliamentary question in June this year that paracetamol is the most
commonly prescribed drug in New Zealand," Ms Kedgley said.
"Almost a million prescriptions of paracetamol were dispensed in the year ending December 2000. This is a real concern,
when the new study links a high consumption of the drug with the prevalence of asthma.
"New Zealand has one of the highest asthma rates in the world, and one of the highest rates of paracetamol usage," she
Ms Kedgley said the comprehensive study of 140.000 people in 22 countries (one of them New Zealand) took place over ten
years, and concluded there was a possible link between the drug's sale and the prevalence of asthma.
In the light of the new international study, and as a precautionary measure, Pharmac needs to investigate why
paracetamol is our most highly prescribed drug, and work with doctors and pharmacists to reduce its high prescription
rate in this country, she said.
Ms Kedgley said she was particularly concerned at the high consumption of paracetamol by children, given the high asthma
rates amongst New Zealand children.
"Paracetamol appears to be given out indiscriminately, almost like lolly water, by some doctors. We need to educate
doctors about its potentially harmful side-effects, and urge restraint by the medical profession," she said.
Ms Kedgley said Pharmac was the obvious government agency to lead a campaign to lower the prescription rate of
paracetamol. "Pharmac was given a new mandate -to ensure the responsible use of pharmaceuticals -in health legislation
last year. "Clearly our skyrocketing prescription rate for paracetamol is irresponsible, and Pharmac should play a
leadership role in trying to reduce our consumption of the drug."