26 Sep 2023

Labour promises $1b boost to Pharmac over four years

12:52 pm on 26 September 2023

Aiming to fund more medicines, Labour leader Chris Hipkins has announced over $1 billion of new funding for Pharmac, if re-elected.

He said Labour would "turbocharge Pharmac funding".

"Our boost will increase Pharmac's funding by more than $1b over the next four years, a total increase of 62 percent since Labour took office in 2017."

Hipkins said it would provide access to more cancer treatments.

It would provide $181 million of funding a year from 2024/25 "so Pharmac can continue to meet the ongoing cost of the additional treatments we've funded in recent years".

"In addition, we will pump in an extra $50 million for new treatments from 2024/25, rising to $100 million per year in 2026/27."

He accused National of starving Pharmac of funding "when they froze its budget for three years and only increased the medicines budget by 25 percent over nine years".

"When Labour came into government, Pharmac's funding was only $870 million a year, it's now $1.2 billion a year.

"Our funding boosts have meant Pharmac has made available 75 new listings and widened access to 137 treatments. It's estimated that over 118,000 New Zealanders have benefited from the funding decisions implemented in 2021/2022 alone.

"We will also continue to support Pharmac to independently ensure that all medicines are considered, not just those that appeal to certain politicians," Hipkins said.

In an open letter to Pharmac, oncologists urged newer and better-funded medication, saying the country is barely keeping pace with the World Health Organisation essential medicine list.

Pharmac said it was working hard to make more cancer treatment options available, despite limited funds.

Talking to reporters in Auckland today, Hipkins said Labour's fiscal plan would be released this week, and that the money for Pharmac's funding boost would come from the "new spending allowance".

"And we've set out in detail in our alternative fiscal plan how that breaks down; bearing in mind that if we don't put this extra funding to Pharmac, they're actually going to have to reduce the medications that they are currently funding.

"So the National Party, if they are not going to make a similar commitment, are going to be reducing the medications available to New Zealanders."

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