“Access to pharmaceuticals is life or death, or the difference between a life of pain and suffering or living freely. Judging by the comments made internally by PHARMAC staff regarding Rachel Smalley’s coverage of the organisation, they are more concerned about their public profile than providing the best medicines access possible to New Zealanders.

“Advocating for medicines is not trivial or “nauseating” as one PHARMAC staffer described it. Wanting to keep people alive and asking for more and better medicines is a conversation the public should be included in.

“ACT’s medicines strategy would ensure patient consultation helps contribute to a more evidence-based public debate on whether PHARMAC is meeting taxpayers’ expectations.

“Compared to other OECD countries, New Zealand is consistently one of the worst performers when it comes to accessing new medicines. Between 2012-2021, New Zealand was at the bottom of the OECD pack in launching new medicines. Of 460 new medicines, 16 per cent were launched in New Zealand, compared with 34 per cent for Australia and an OECD average of 41 per cent. This is why people have to travel overseas for medicine, it’s why Kiwis have to give up their life savings to access a medicine that other countries already provide.

“ACT will create a dedicated strategy for ensuring access to medicines. This will mean more accountability for PHARMAC to patients and taxpayers.

“The strategy will be informed by patient consultation, it would ensure regular performance reporting and international benchmarking of PHARMAC, and it would require a streamlined approvals process.

"For example, measuring long term benefits from pharmaceutical funding decisions can inform decision making that frees up hospital beds faster, or enables people to live independently, reduces carer burden and return to work or study sooner.

“It will ensure that the regulatory system and funding system for pharmaceuticals is sustainable and not unreasonably holding back access. It will lead to more Kiwis being able to access the medicines they need to live a fulfilling life.

“This episode has been a sad glimpse into the internal workings of PHARMAC. The stakes are too high for too many for it to remain this way. ACT will bring accountability to PHARMAC so it is working for patients and not itself.”

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