Petition launched over nurses’ prescribing powers

July 1, 2021

Amid a global medication shortage, Nurse Practitioners New Zealand (NPNZ) has petitioned the Government to urgently amend the Medicines Act to allow them to prescribe alternatives when approved medications have run out.

Chair Sandy Oster said section 29 of the Medicines Act (1981) did not allow nurse practitioners (NPs) to supply unapproved medicines – only medical practitioners.

In the past six months, global shortages meant this was now an urgent problem in New Zealand for NPs and patients, Oster said.

As some medicines run out in New Zealand, “unapproved medicines” suggested by Medsafe or Pharmac are brought in as substitutes, she said. However, NPs as “authorised prescribers” under the Medicines Act were unable to prescribe them.

These included things like oral contraceptives, common antihypertensive medications and folic acid for pregnant women, Oster said.

NPNZ wanted section 29 extended to cover all authorised prescribers, Oster said, but had been turned away by the Minister of Health, chief nurse, PHARMAC and director-general of health.

“This is now a significant barrier to practice, as any medication in section 29 must be prescribed by a doctor. GPs are not happy either, as section 29 medications require additional conversations with patients and they are being asked to sign prescriptions for patients they have not assessed.”

Nearly 2000 signed the petition, which closed on July 2.

Oster said she hoped to work closely with NZNO to advocate for change.