28 May 2019

Pharmac under pressure to stump up for more medicines

From Morning Report, 7:41 am on 28 May 2019

Pharmac is under intense pressure from clinicians, health advocacy groups and patients to fund more medicines in areas as diverse as diabetes, cancer and rare disorders.

So how does it manage its medicines budget and arrive at its decisions about what gets funded and what doesn't? Guyon Espiner has been investigating Pharmac, and sat down for an extended interview with the chief executive Sarah Fitt.

He started by pointing out New Zealand is second to bottom amongst in OECD countries for spending on medicines. Because it has the fixed budget, Pharmac is forced to free up money in order to fund new medicines.

One of the key ways it does this is by putting supply of drugs up for tender. If Pharmac cuts a money saving deal with a drug company it can mean patients are forced to switch their medicines to a cheaper generic.

There are more than 100 medicines that have been recommended for funding by Pharmac's main decision making body but not yet signed off for public funding by the full Pharmac board.

Pharmac's Sarah Fitt won't reveal when or if the medicine will be funded.

This is the third story in a four-part investigation into how Pharmac works and whether its model is costing lives. You can read part 1 here: The NZ Buyer's Club.Part 2 is here: Pharmac's secret list.Part 4 is here: Pharmac switches epilepsy drug against Medsafe advice. Listen to Guyon Espiner discuss this investigation here: Drugs and Money