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Published: 12 May, 2023


Promoting bowel screening in primary care

The organisers of the National Bowel Screening Programme are encouraging primary care health professionals to promote bowel screening this month, with a particular focus on increasing participation of eligible Māori and Pacific peoples. Screening rates remain under 60% in many regions, and rates are much lower for Māori and Pacific peoples. The eligibility age is in the process of being lowered across all regions for Māori and Pacific peoples to age 50 years. Colorectal cancer is highly amenable to screening, which picks up both cancer and pre-cancerous polyps. Removal of polyps and earlier diagnosis, as a result of the bowel screening programme, is already making a difference in preventing death and reducing the need for chemotherapy.

General practices are encouraged to opportunistically check if eligible patients have received a bowel screening kit and to identify and address any barriers to completing the test.

For further information on the National Bowel Screening Programme, see: and

ADHD medicines to be funded for up to three months’ supply

Pharmac has announced that from 1 June, 2023, methylphenidate and dexamfetamine will be funded for up to three-months’ supply when an electronic prescription is used. The quantity prescribed using a paper prescription will remain as up to one month. These are stimulant medicines used for the treatment of ADHD in children (methylphenidate and dexamfetamine) and adults (methylphenidate), as well as some other indications including narcolepsy. This announcement aligns with the recent changes in legislation to the electronic prescribing and dispensing of Class B controlled drugs.

Click here for further information.

Eligibility widened for additional COVID-19 boosters for pregnant women

From 1 May, 2023, eligibility for additional COVID-19 boosters has widened to include people aged 16 years and older who are pregnant (previously pregnant women were only eligible if they were aged 30 years or older). An additional COVID-19 booster dose is recommended for all pregnant women, particularly those who are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Check in with your patients who meet eligibility criteria to ensure that they are aware an additional booster dose is available. The influenza vaccine can also be given concomitantly.

Updated resources will be available from the Immunisation Advisory Centre soon.

News in brief: cilazapril delisting date moved to end of 2023

Pharmac has announced that the proposed delisting date for cilazapril has been moved from mid-2023 to the end of the year. Prescribers should be identifying any patients still taking cilazapril and moving them to another option.

For further information on selecting an ACE inhibitor or ARB, see: "Prescribing ACE inhibitors: time to reconsider old habits."

Monitoring Communication: risk of pancreatitis with interleukin inhibitors

Medsafe has issued a Monitoring Communication to seek more information from clinicians on the risk of pancreatitis associated with the use of interleukin inhibitors.

Interleukin inhibitors are monoclonal antibodies that act on interleukin-mediated cell signalling pathways to reduce inflammation. These medicines are indicated for various inflammatory conditions, e.g. eosinophilic asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis. Examples include tocilizumab, ustekinumab and secukinumab (see the Medsafe communication for a full list).

During the March, 2023 meeting of the Medicines Adverse Reaction Committee (MARC) it was agreed that there is evidence to support an association between tocilizumab* (interleukin 6 inhibitor) and pancreatitis. However, there is not enough evidence to extend this association to all available interleukin inhibitor medicines. This safety communication has been made to identify any relevant information to support an association.

*Indicated for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and giant cell arteritis

Healthcare professionals should report any suspected cases of pancreatitis associated with the use of interleukin inhibitors to CARM.

Registrations still open for Rotorua GP CME conference 2023

The Rotorua GP CME conference 2023 is being held at the Rotorua Energy Convention Centre, 8 – 11 June, 2023. While registrations are still open, accommodation options are filling up fast, so don’t delay.

A wide range of sessions and workshops will be available at the conference to cater to the diverse interests of primary care health professionals; for the full agenda click here.

The South Link Education Trust is a Diamond Sponsor for the GPCME Conferences and is excited to showcase the range of activities from its associated organisations, including South Link Health Services, BPAC Clinical Solutions, bpacnz Publications and the New Zealand Medicines Formulary (NZF and NZFc). We warmly welcome you to come chat to our team at the conference about our suite of innovative Smart Care products and other services.

NZF updates for May

You can read about all the changes in the May release here. Also read about any significant changes to the NZF for Children (NZFC), here

In case you missed it: latest resources from bpacnz

Gynaecological cancers: all topics are now available in this series, including cervical, ovarian, endometrial, vaginal and vulval cancers. A follow-up article and CME resources will be published soon to complete this series.

Diverticulitis : a recent global re-think on the management of this condition has resulted in latest guidelines recommending that antibiotics are not routinely used in every case. Advice on restricting the diet while managing acute symptoms has also changed.

Osteoarthritis: exercise is at least as effective as NSAIDs for improving pain and function in people with osteoarthritis. Many people worry that doing exercise will cause further damage to their joints, but they can be reassured that this is not the case. Listen to this interesting and informative narrated slideshow presentation with physiotherapist Ben Darlow and orthopaedic surgeon John Scanelli.

Paper of the Week: "Can you show me how you use your inhaler?"

Inhalers are fundamental for the treatment of asthma, COPD and other chronic respiratory conditions, but patients require sufficient physical capabilities, co-ordination and dexterity to operate them. Incorrect inhaler technique limits medicine delivery, increases the risk of respiratory symptom exacerbation and reduces the patient’s quality of life. New Zealand Asthma Guidelines and the 2023 Global strategy for prevention, diagnosis and management of COPD report both emphasise the importance of regular assessment and correction of inhaler technique for patients with chronic respiratory conditions to improve outcomes. However, evidence suggests the number of primary care clinicians who frequently assess their patient’s inhaler technique is low; 39% do this “often” and only 17% do it “almost always”.

While patient inhaler technique shows short-term improvement following a single education or “training” session, regression is likely over the next two to three months. A review article to be published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice examines the evidence for this regression and explores ways to resolve any issues and support patients to use correct inhaler technique. This information is likely to be applicable to a range of healthcare professionals, including general practitioners, nurse practitioners, practice nurses and pharmacists.

Bosnic-Anticevich S, Bender B, Shuler M, et al. Recognizing and tackling inhaler technique decay in asthma and COPD clinical practice. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice 2023;:S2213219823004725. doi:10.1016/j.jaip.2023.04.031

For further information on selecting medicines and inhalers for asthma, see;

For patient-directed information on inhaler devices currently available in New Zealand, see:

This Bulletin is supported by the South Link Education Trust

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