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Published: 17 June, 2020


Changes to the National Immunisation Schedule

A number of changes to the National Immunisation Schedule, beginning on 1 July, 2020 have been announced by the Ministry of Health. These include:

  • PCV10 will no longer be given at age three months, i.e. it will change from a four-dose (three primary doses and a booster dose) to a three-dose schedule (two primary doses and a booster dose); from 1 October, 2020, the booster dose scheduled at age 15 months will change to age 12 months
  • There will be a change of brand for hepatitis B and varicella vaccines (practices will continue to be supplied with the current brands until stocks are depleted)
  • Tdap will replace the ADT vaccine
  • From 1 October, 2020, a new vaccine event will be added at age 12 months to allow the first MMR to be given, followed by a booster at age 15 months (instead of a booster at age four years); as noted above, the third dose of PCV10 will also be given at age 12 months

Immunisation resources will be revised and reissued or reprinted and available to order online here after September, 2020.


Artemisia annua extract is now a prescription-only medicine

The Ministry of Health has announced that Artemisia annua extract (also known as Sweet Wormwood, Sweet Annie or Qing hao, and marketed as Arthrem) is now a prescription-only medicine; it can no longer be sold over-the-counter in pharmacies or online. This decision has been made due to concerns about liver toxicity, which makes this product unsuitable for patient self-selection. There are currently no Medsafe approved products containing A. annua extract; if Arthrem is prescribed this is done so under section 29, unapproved medicine, with informed consent from the patient. It is uncertain whether the Arthrem brand will continue to be supplied in New Zealand.

Pharmacists should inform people who ask about A. annua extract that it is associated with a potential risk of liver toxicity; this may help to alleviate the number of enquiries in general practice for prescription of this product.

For a closer look at the recommendations on managing pain associated with osteoarthritis, see https://bpac.org.nz/2018/osteoarthritis.aspx

Nedocromil and sodium cromoglicate inhalers discontinued

Nedocromil (Tilade) and sodium cromoglicate (Intal Forte) inhalers used in the treatment of asthma are to be discontinued in New Zealand by Sanofi and there are no other suppliers. They will therefore no longer be available once the current supply runs out. The supply of nedocromil inhalers is expected to run out in late July, 2020 and late October, 2020 for sodium cromoglicate inhalers. PHARMAC has advised prescribers that no new patients should be initiated on nedocromil or sodium cromoglicate inhalers and that patients currently using these inhalers should be transitioned to an alternative treatment for their asthma. In 2019, 1090 patients were dispensed nedocromil inhalers and approximately 370 were dispensed sodium cromoglicate inhalers.

Paper of the week: Telehealth is an effective intervention for maintenance of weight loss

A randomised clinical trial in the USA has found that follow-up telephone support resulted in significantly less weight regain among participants who had completed a lifestyle weight-loss intervention, compared to those who received written education alone. Participants were from low socioeconomic rural locations, and unable to easily attend a clinic for in-person care. While there are many dissimilarities between a USA population and healthcare system compared to New Zealand, the general principles of this study apply and give support to the notion that telehealth can be an efficient and effective way of delivering successful health interventions to patients who encounter barriers in accessing conventional models of care.

Perri M, Shankar M, Daniels M, et al. Effect of telehealth extended care for maintenance of weight loss in rural US communities. JAMA Netw Open 2020;3(6): e206764. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2767136


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