Money runs out for drug research

Last updated 05:00 16/12/2013

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A national drug safety monitoring programme has been forced to shut after funding dried up.

Largely bankrolled by the Ministry of Health through Medsafe, Otago University's Intensive Medicine Monitoring Programme (IMMP) has monitored and detected adverse reactions to medicines for the past 36 years.

It also received funding from research grants and pharmaceutical companies, and its findings influenced drug warnings and advisories nationally and overseas.

But the IMMP has had to call time on its work, after its most recent research project wrapped up in June last year and residual funding ran out.

Both the Ministry of Health and experts involved with the programme have expressed their disappointment, but neither side quite knows why there are no projects left to fund.

Otago University New Zealand Pharmacovigilance Centre director Dr Michael Tatley said a change to the way the programme was funded about five years ago meant each project was awarded money individually, rather than the programme receiving continuous funding.

The last of those projects was key research on the risk of heart attacks for people taking smoking cessation drug Champix.

"When that finished the programme could put up proposals for other projects and, equally, Medsafe could put up proposals for medicines they thought might warrant further study," he said. "Since the end of that programme there's been no projects put up for consideration to Medsafe."

Other studies the IMMP has undertaken include the safety and use of antipsychotic medicines in children and adolescents, and the risk of life-threatening bowel diseases for patients taking schizophrenia drug clozapine.

Medsafe manager Clinical Risk Management Chris James said the ministry was disappointed to see the IMMP close. "The last project funded by Medsafe was varenicline and this project was completed in June 2012. Although Medsafe was open to considering further projects for funding no recent proposals have been received from the programme."

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- The Dominion Post

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