New report on medicines dispensed in primary care shows substantial progress in some key focus areas, with opportunities for improvement in others


New report on medicines dispensed in primary care shows substantial progress in some key focus areas, with opportunities for improvement in others

Media release from He Ako Hiringa
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Alesha Smith, EPiC lead analyst [Image: supplied]

The 2022 EPiC Annual Prescribing Report, published by Pharmac-sponsored educators He Ako Hiringa, is now available online and highlights some real wins in primary care prescribing, as well as signalling some areas for improvement.

The report, presented as an interactive dashboard, helps primary care clinicians quickly focus on key problems of national prescribing practice such as polypharmacy and medicine underutilisation in different populations.

The report shows significant movement towards getting key medicines to priority patient groups, as well as the continuing reduction in prescribing of opioid analgesics to young people.

EPiC lead analyst, Dr Alesha Smith, says “It is great to see that equity-informed funding, combined with motivated primary care prescribers, has jet-propelled empagliflozin into the top five medicines used for diabetes. Dispensing of LABAs to Māori compared to other ethnicities looks great too, although more work with Pacific peoples is needed”.

One data story that surprised Dr Smith was the significant ethnic disparity in prescribing for mental health.

“European/Other ethnicities have significantly higher use of antidepressants than Māori, Asian and Pacific peoples. It’s unlikely there is this much variation in prevalence of mental health disorders, so we need to consider that there may be insufficient access to antidepressant medicines for certain ethnicities” commented Dr Smith.

Size and interactivity of the EPiC database - a first for New Zealand

Over 10 million lines of dispensed medicine data, for 100 common prescription items, grouped by medicine category, is used to create the free, easy-to-interpret, interactive charts displayed in the EPiC Annual Report.

“As medicine datasets are so large, we are often forced to restrict our analysis to smaller subsets to gain meaningful insights” explained Dr Smith.

“The visual representation of the data in EPiC means it is easier for any user to search for variances in their area of practice, specialism or interest, and use this to plan their own quality or educational initiatives. We are delighted with this result.”

As well as viewing the national data, prescribers can view their own data on their dispensed (funded) prescriptions as well as prescriptions dispensed to all patients enrolled in their primary practice.

Data to 31 January 2022 are currently showing in EPiC and updates occur quarterly.

View prescriber, practice, and national data on

Prescribers are required to create an EPiC account to see their report.

A demonstration version of the resource, showing the prescriber and practice view is available at

LABA prescribing by ethnicity
Diabetes prescribing by ethnicity
Antipsychotics prescribing by ethnicity
Polypharmacy by age