There were unusual pharmaceutical dispensing patterns in 2020, with a significant increase in the total number of dispensings.
These changes should be considered within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March 2020, Pharmac introduced a Pharmaceutical Schedule change that required pharmacies to move to monthly dispensing, rather than all-at-once dispensing, to mitigate the effects of global supply issues that were affecting New Zealand's stock of some medicines.
This change meant that a patient would have to go into a pharmacy three times for a normal 90-day prescription, rather than once. New Zealand returned to normal dispensing for most medicines on 1 August 2020.
Due to the unusual dispensing patterns in 2020, in recent updates to the web tool we have included a quantity variable (Qty).
Quantity data provides information about the number of 'units' of a drug that were given, reporting how much medication someone received rather than how many times they were dispensed that medication.
We recommend that the quantity variable be used together with the dispensing numbers to get a clearer picture of long-term trends in dispensing patterns.
For more information, please refer to the help section on Qty in the web tool’s Home page, or the technical document that can be downloaded from the web tool’s Data page.