Lindy enlists MP for drug law change
Alison King | 24th May 2010
Labour list MP Steve Chadwick has agreed to help a Ngongotaha woman who wants legislation changed to improve patient information about the side-effects of prescription medications.
Lindy Andrews is disabled as a result of the side-effects of antidepressants.
Mrs Chadwick, a former associate minister for health, met Lindy Andrews this week to discuss presenting a petition to Parliament.
Ms Andrews, who has been physically disabled for 17 years after her first prescription, wants the Government to make pharmaceutical companies that conceal the side-effects of medicines more accountable.
The current maximum fine for misleading the public in medicines advertising is $1000. Ms Andrews wants that increased to $200,000.
Mrs Chadwick has offered to help Ms Andrews put a petition before Parliament asking for the change. She has also met Labour's health spokeswoman Ruth Dyson to investigate further.
"We're starting to look at the Medicines Act to see if there's more that could be done," Mrs Chadwick said.
"It's going to take a bit of work. I think Lindy will be a very good advocate – she's concerned about others but it's something we have got to step through."
Ms Andrews said she hoped something would happen following her own experiences.
She developed twisted limbs and Parkinsonism – Parkinson's Disease-type symptoms – after taking commonly prescribed antidepressants prescribed for post-traumatic stress disorder.
She said none of her doctors had checked the Ministry of Health website Medsafe, which lists all side-effects, and that the law should be changed to list these on the medication packaging.
"The system is not working.
"Medsafe has told me that if people who take medication are concerned about side-effects, they should check the website.
"There is no law in this country that says drug companies or pharmacies have to provide consumer information with medicines, yet you can't buy a packet of hair dye or a cold remedy without being 'hit in the eye' by large warnings printed on the packet.
"There's no way this is good enough; nor does it allow patients to give informed consent."
Ms Andrews said she had a long talk with Mrs Chadwick and she was now putting the finishing touches to her petition.
"I'm going to continue to push for this. We're supposed to make informed decisions but we can't as we aren't in possession of all the facts."
A petition is a starting point for new or amended legislation.
Once Ms Andrews had sent in her petition to the health select committee she will be asked to go before the committee. Submissions are then called for from specialists such as the Ministry of Health or College of Psychiatrists, and recommendations, usually two or three, will then be put forward to the Government, which then has to respond within 90 days.
"It's a very good democratic tool," Mrs Chadwick said.