National | Medicine

Access to stronger cold and flu medications to be eased

Changes are coming to drug and medicine regulations, making it easier to access pseudoephedrine-based cold and flu remedies.

The coalition government has announced changes to rules that will allow pseudoephedrine-based medications to be sold in pharmacies without being prescribed by doctors but it won’t happen until at least next year.

By amending the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and making changes to the Medicines Regulations 1984, the reforms will reclassify certain cold and flu medications, enabling easier access for individuals suffering from winter ailments.

Announcing the move, Associate Health Minister David Seymour emphasised the government’s aim to remove bureaucratic hurdles that limited patient choice and access to effective treatments.

“Removing the ineffective ban on the sale of pseudoephedrine is a principled decision to remove unnecessary red tape and give New Zealanders greater choice and freedom over their own lives,” he said.

Seymour said the reclassification aimed to fix the previous ban on pseudoephedrine, which was initially put in place because of concerns over its potential misuse in methamphetamine production.

He said such restrictions had been ineffective, and criminal organisations had developed alternative methods for acquiring pseudoephedrine.

“The reality is that the gangs have far more effective ways of obtaining pseudoephedrine to manufacture methamphetamine, and we should tackle these head on instead,” Seymour said, adding that the current law was denying New Zealanders access to “decent cold and flu medication,” while methamphetamine availability has surged.

Despite the easing of restrictions, there will still be a degree of control over the use of these medicines. Purchases will be regulated through pharmacies, and import and export restrictions will continue to ensure the responsible management of these substances.

Seymour says pharmaceutical companies can seek approval to sell the products through Medsafe, which has promised an expedited review process.

The decision is expected to reintroduce effective cold and flu medications to the market by 2025, offering “greater choice and freedom” to New Zealanders in managing their health.