Medicines New ZealandFriday 25 November 2011, 3:09PM
Debate about the optimal level of medicines access for New
Zealand patients has received a substantial contribution from
internationally respected health economic analysts.
New Zealand patients have been receiving access to new medicines
at about half the rate of access provided in Australia, according
to an article by Michael Wonder and Richard Milne, published today
in the New Zealand Medical Journal (NZMJ).
The article identifies that some of the products not listed in New
Zealand do not have alternatives available locally, and clearly
identifies the bottleneck as being within the current PHARMAC
"We recognise that the current Government has shown a commitment
to improving the levels of access that PHARMAC can provide by
increasing the medicines budget. This has been an important and
welcome step towards redressing the situation," Medicines New
Zealand General Manager Kevin Sheehy says.
"As the Wonder & Milne report shows however, there is further
improvement needed before New Zealand has optimal access. Right now
the truth is that access to innovative medicines for New Zealanders
is lower and slower than that in Australia.
"The response by PHARMAC staff (also published in the NZMJ)
rightly points out a number of the challenges of making
international comparisons of access, but does not address the
underlying problem of how to improve people's health by offering
optimal access to new medicines." Mr Sheehy adds.
The PHARMAC response expresses concern that a few of the medicines
are priced at $100 000 per QALY (a measure of their effectiveness
in improving health) but does not address the facts that: most of
the medicines on offer cost substantially less than this; or that
other investments in the health system are being made at this cost
with no questions asked.
With PHARMAC moving further into funding hospital medicines, it is
vital that the budgeting process is able to respond to increased
need for investment.
A recent consultation about specialist clinicians' views of
PHARMAC funding hospital medicines identified the need for a more
responsive approach to investing in new medicines. The report
states: "A view expressed consistently throughout the consultation
period was that PHARMAC's decision-making processes are
insufficiently transparent, are too slow and do not adequately
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