Monday 16 July 2018

Liveline open second studio to hear from people affected by pain patches controversy

Joe Duffy. Photo: Paul Sharp/Sharpix
Joe Duffy. Photo: Paul Sharp/Sharpix

Sean Nolan

RTÉ's Liveline has taken the 'very rare' step of opening a second studio to manage the volume of calls they are receiving in relation to the controversy over access to a pain patch called Versatis.

Calls to the show began last Thursday with a caller named Audrey highlighting the issue and a spokesperson for the programme told Independent.ie that if anything, the volume of calls on the subject from around the country was '"increasing".

The patch, primarily used by patients suffering with post-herpatic neuralgia, a condition linked with shingles, became more difficult to access after the HSE reviewed how the drug was prescribed.

Continued use after three months now has to be approved by the Medicines Management Programme following a request by a GP.

Patients with other pain conditions also called the show to say they had been prescribed the patches for relief.

For over a week now, callers with a whole host of conditions have spoken to Joe Duffy to explain their pain management, how they rely on the patch and how other products were unsuitable.

The matter was raised at the Oireachtas Health Committee yesterday where HSE Director General Tony O'Brien said the change was introduced due to to the drug being inappropriately prescribed.

However, the calls continue to come in to Liveline and a spokesperson said they opened a second studio to record some callers so they could get their story recorded and presented in a timely manner.

The Liveline spokesperson said they are still receiving around 100 calls, texts or emails on the subject each day.

In a statement sent to Liveline on the matter the Department for Health say: "They had been informed by the HSE that it is possible for non-shingles patients to be approved for the patch through the community schemes. The patient's GP should apply to the HSE Medicines Management Programme (MMP) through the online system, and the MMP will review the application and inform the GP of its decision.

"The HSE has advised that the MMP has received over 4,500 applications from GPs, of which some 10% have been approved.  Many of the conditions applied for were not suitable for the patch and demonstrated inappropriate prescribing, for example for conditions such as deep venous thrombosis, angina, gout and endometriosis.

"Where a GP’s application is rejected, it may be appealed. Of approximately 200 appeals to date, the HSE advises that over 50% have been accepted on clinical grounds.

"The HSE wrote to all GPs in August 2017 advising them of the changes and alternative treatments and published a patient information leaflet. 

"The role of the HSE Medicines Management Programme is to monitor the utilisation and expenditure of medicines. The decision by the HSE MMP in relation to lidocaine 5% medicated plasters is a clinical matter for the HSE. "

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