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NZMJ article comparing medicines access - Medicines New Zealand responds

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 system. 

"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 involve clinicians." 



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