Medicines New Zealand on Pharmac funding

Written By: - Date published: 12:42 pm, March 1st, 2016 - 36 comments
Categories: drugs, health - Tags: ,

A media release from Medicines New Zealand:

While New Zealanders wait for 81 medicines, PHARMAC gives money back

Tuesday 01 March 2016, 11:28AM
Media release from Medicines New Zealand

“We are outraged that the Minister of Health has today confirmed $30 million of PHARMAC’s budget was not reinvested in medicines in 2015. PHARMAC’s gross underfunding has left New Zealanders missing out on innovative medicines.” said Dr Graeme Jarvis, General Manager of Medicines New Zealand.

New Zealanders are waiting for 81 medicines recommended for funding by PHARMAC’s own technical advisory committee with an average waiting time of 3 years. The longest waiting time is 12 years.

Aside from providing PHARMAC with the correct levels of funding, the PHARMAC model needs to be updated to deal with the newest innovative medicines. Early access schemes are already benefiting patients in Japan, UK and US.

Innovative medicines are an investment not only in people, but in future healthcare sustainability. A recent Australian study showed a $7 billion saving in hospital costs as a result of innovative medicines being utilised and prescribed.

Funding one medicine alone is not enough to fix the problem in New Zealand, there are a number of conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, and cancers) where patients are not being given access to the recommended cost-effective medicines.

Meanwhile patients turn to Givealittle to try and fund lifesaving medication, see What’s Keytruda and why won’t Pharmac fund it?

36 comments on “Medicines New Zealand on Pharmac funding”

  1. tinfoilhat 1

    Isn’t medicines NZ the lobby group for multinational pharmaceutical suppliers ?

    • alwyn 1.1

      They are, according to their own words
      “Medicines New Zealand is the industry association representing companies engaged in the research, development, manufacture and marketing of prescription medicines. A central objective of Medicines New Zealand is to promote the benefits of a strong research based industry in New Zealand”

      Are we to assume that this web-site, “The Standard” has crossed over to the dark side, and is now under the sway of “Big Pharma”?
      How sad. Another New Zealand organisation that has fallen into foreign ownership.

      • Galeandra 1.1.1

        Alwyn, Stick to the point if you want to be useful for at least some part of your sorry life.
        The ‘increased’ health vote is actually a shrinking health budget in the context of our aging / poorer/ more needy population. In keeping with the objectivity you proclaim here is a useful link for you.
        http://union.org.nz/sites/union.org.nz/files/Did%20the%20Budget%20provide%20enough%20for%20Health%202015.pdf

        This shrinkage is already severely constraining service delivery including medication choices.
        My information comes from experiences of a family member who’s tasked with approximately 1+ of a hospital based consultancy role, on 1 salary.
        Typical issues faced :understaffed so if a clinic cycle is disrupted through illness or emergency, then patients may not be able to re-scheduled for 6+ months; inability to prescribe some desired types of medication; inadequacy of ancillary support, for example, delays in typing of follow-up letters from consults to GPs or patients or other service providers; lack of adequately ventilated and private office spaces or clinic rooms).
        Working from 8am to 8pm is normal. The outcomes are grinding, to the point where resignation and relocation overseas is increasing likely.

        Now tell me again how wonderful Key and Coleman are, and how droll your comment about Medicines NZ.

        • alwyn 1.1.1.1

          What on earth does this comment have to do with what I said in the comment you are replying to?
          I never mentioned the health vote.
          I never said that Key and Coleman were wonderful.
          I just quoted the description that Medicines NZ apply to themselves.
          The “droll comment” was just a joke about The Standard apparently reporting Big Pharma’s publicity.
          Did you mean someone else?

      • Joy Giffard 1.1.2

        Alwyn, I totally agree with you.

        Many, many Prescribed Medicines are totally unnecessary. The industry is driven by Money. Just as the Arms Industry.

        The totally unnecessary animal based research is also hugely driven by money. Even though most of the data is on line. So the animals have to suffer many times over, to re-prove their research results. Absolutely pointless and disgusting.

        I control my cancer by living on the right foods. NO argument. The markers in my blood even dropped, within a 2 months, by 5.00.

    • r0b 1.2

      I believe they are, yes. Does that mean they are wrong in their media release? Do we judge everything by who said it, or on its merits?

      • tinfoilhat 1.2.1

        “I believe they are, yes. Does that mean they are wrong in their media release? Do we judge everything by who said it, or on its merits?”

        LOL that’s what is done at this and other political blog sites on a daily basis.

        Big pharma and their mouthpiece have undoubtedly got an agenda, I think the simplest test as to whether one is thinking with their heart or their political head is what was your view on the funding of Herceptin ?

        My view on the funding of Herceptin and on the funding of Keytruda (sp) is that they should both have been funded when they became available – we are not a poor country and these medications can undoubtedly help people so they should be funded.

      • Colonial Viper 1.2.2

        As with the Herceptin case, Pharmac does a comprehensive and scientific cost-benefit analysis of what drugs it decides to fund and not fund in order to make best use of tax payers monies.

        Are we going to encourage John Key and other politicians to make a routine of more politically interfering with pharmac’s decisions?

        Corporate lobby groups and astroturfing commercially funded “consumer groups” are a plague on democracy.

        • miravox 1.2.2.1

          The comprehensive bit of the cost-benefit analysis is what I’ve always had an issue with, however that is changing (see 6 below).

          As I’ve mentioned before on this site, I can get meds where I am that enable me to work, look after my family and run bloody half marathons. If I was still in NZ I wouldn’t be able to do any of those things due to pharmac’s inflexible funding criteria.

          Labour’s timing is appalling and actions are wrong, imo

          As for meeting any lobby groups –

          Corporate lobby groups and astroturfing commercially funded “consumer groups” are a plague on democracy.

          Perfectly said.

      • greywarshark 1.2.3

        I think r0b that their media release attacking Pharmac is picking on an easy target.
        I have heard the outrage of senior doctors and specialists at not being able to get the latest breakthroughs that will extend life for 6 months to say five years at the most. Usually at great cost which only the state can afford to pay.

        These sort of demands accumulate to an unaffordable level for a properly funded health system, and we are not a properly funded system, with hospitals being forced to cut back, people in need who are young, of working age, parents, not getting the treatment they need so they can get on with a life cured and not in pain, not even being properly diagnosed because they can’t see a specialist. People aving expensive operations aren’t getting the needed nursing support and hospital recovery time to ensure success of the operation.

        We are being emotionally blackmailed by people who feel they could gain extra life from new treatments which are out of sight in expense, and the pharmaceuticals spend millions and create PR for their medicines and feed that blackmail. The companies don’t work on things they can’t see big dollars for even if those medicines are desperately needed, so what they choose to do they do for money,and they help the needy to put pressure on government buying agences
        in the hope that it will extend their lives for a while, rarely cure.

    • Isn’t it actually possible that from time to time big multinational pharmaceutical suppliers may actually have a point that we should buy their medicines?

      I mean, they’re certainly not automatically right, but if there’s honest and thorough research backing up their claims that investing in their medicines actually saves money in the long term, we kinda owe it to ourselves to try it out.

      • alwyn 1.3.1

        There is a major problem with material from pharmaceutical companies. They are very selective about what is published from the clinical trials they run. I am not terribly knowledgeable on the whole subject but apparently results from only about half of the clinical trials run are ever released and they tend to be biased in favour of releasing a drug because you only hear about successful studies.

        It is discussed here, but Google will give you a lot more material on the bias.
        The thing seems to be that you can’t rely on them telling you the whole story.
        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2222220/Drug-firms-risking-lives-hiding-bad-trials-effects-medicines.html

        I go along with Colonial Viper. Keep the politicians out of it and let Pharmac choose what they will finance. It sounds tough but there isn’t an unlimited drug buying budget to pay for every conceivable treatment.

      • Steve Withers 1.3.2

        I’d trust Big Pharma more if they looked for cures instead of life-long palliatives.

        Funny how they never find cures.

        • Colonial Viper 1.3.2.1

          A corporation’s job is to look after the shareholders, not the patients.

          The project to look for a “cure” wouldn’t even get past the business case stage, it wouldn’t hold up against the projects pushing for life long dependency drugs.

          • tinfoilhat 1.3.2.1.1

            I don’t think that theory would hold for antibiotics or vaccines would it ?

            • Colonial Viper 1.3.2.1.1.1

              in fact it is probably why antibiotic research and development funding is in the toilet and Big Pharma wants government handouts to do it.

              • alwyn

                The real kicker with antibiotics is that we want a new one that will work in cases where the existing ones run into immune targets.
                We need something that works differently to the present ones but which is never used unless it is the only possibility.
                It is a case where the only way of developing such a thing is if a Government, or Governments, offer a prize for the best solution and then take over the ownership of the result.
                It is very difficult to see how a private company would develop, at their own expense, something that they were then never allowed to sell except for the very few cases where nothing else worked.

            • Sacha 1.3.2.1.1.2

              google ‘Tamiflu’ and see how happy they are to rip us off.

          • Joy Giffard 1.3.2.1.2

            Totally. Then to extract further monies from we all.

            Money is all that drives them. Care for humans does not enter the equation.

            The drug companies do NOT wish us to be cured. Their whole idea is to keep us all as sick, for as long as possible. It retains their incomes!

            Who cares about the humans and the suffering animals.

        • Joy Giffard 1.3.2.2

          Alwyn, I totally agree with you.

          Many, many Prescribed Medicines are totally unnecessary. The industry is driven by Money. Just as the Arms Industry.

          The totally unnecessary animal based research is also hugely driven by money. Even though most of the data is on line. So the animals have to suffer many times over, to re-prove their research results. Absolutely pointless and disgusting.

          I control my cancer by living on the right foods. NO argument. The markers in my blood even dropped, within a 2 months, by 5.00.

    • Joy Giffard 1.4

      I am sure that you are correct.

      Graeme Jarvis must be paid by the drug companies.

      I have had Secondary Cancer for 20+ yrs.

      For the past 19 years have refused any prescribed treatment or drugs, for the cancer.

      Have helped myself. Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy KILL. Wheat grass, juiced and powdered, do the job of helping the body. All drugs make the body acidic, all illness loves an acidic environment. Illness will not survive in an alkaline environment, so everyone should cut out animal, dairy, alcohol, gluten and starch.

  2. McFlock 2

    nice timing: get in early so the tories can make shit up about increasing the pharmac budget and pretend they’re doing it to public acclaim.

    Coleman and Key seem to be well coordinated, too. Either they’ve suddenly upped their media management game, or they had a bit of warning and time to “react”.

  3. Steve Withers 3

    Signing the TPP to lock up new medicines helps make the price even higher. I can see how this government did that for Big Pharma and I’m sure Kiwis won’t really mind as the big boys get theirs before the dying people here.

    Remember! If it comes down to a choice between having a budget surplus or you dying, be sure to make your funeral arrangements.

    But please don’t die before you vote in the flag referendum.

    (I think we should do some satire along these lines. It’s what YouTube is there for.)

  4. She'll be right 4

    What is it with Politicians getting into trouble through meals?

    Little has dinner with drug company executives but says that he didn’t talk to them about Keytruda.

    However a short time later Labour changes its policy to one where they want to fund Keytruda specifically over riding the normal Pharmac process.

    A few questions:

    1 What did they talk about – the weather? Sports? Tasty Food?

    2 Why would you go have tea with drug company executives if you didn’t want to talk to them about their products?

    3 How did this come out into the public domain?

    4 Has the leaky caucus syndrome hit Labour again?

    5 Can Little survive this?

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/77406691/andrew-little-dines-with-drug-company-executives-months-before-adopting-keytruda-stance

    • r0b 4.1

      5 Can Little survive this?

      Oh please.

    • Bearded Git 4.2

      The article is a bit misleading where it says Pharmac was created in 1993. While that is true at that time it was only involved in community medicines. Labour expanded its role greatly to medicines throughout the entire public health service (DHB’s) in 2000.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      Little said he recalled a dinner, but was unsure of the timing.

      Interesting, a John Key-like brain fade.

      • mickysavage 5.1.1

        FFS I expect him to have dinner with people pretty well every night of the week. I would be surprised if he has not had dinner with big pharma.

        The premise of the article is appropriate. Pharmac should spend all of its budget. Underspending means that someone is missing out.

  5. miravox 6

    The main reason medicines aren’t funded is that the don’t meet PHARMACs funding criteria. Politicians shouldn’t be trolling for funding of medicines that don’t meet this criteria, they should be looking at the criteria, right?

    PHARMAC is updating its decision-making criteria

    The increase of very expensive and life-changing meds like biologics and the National party over-riding the decision-making criteria to fund Herceptin obviously had an affect on this reevaluation.

    When we left NZ the plan to do this was underway. I can’t believe it has taken so long to get there, but I urge anyone with an interest in this topic to have a look at this

    https://www.pharmac.govt.nz/medicines/how-medicines-are-funded/factors-for-consideration/

    July 1st 2016 – PHARMAC will use the new criteria from this date on.

    I’ll be watching with great interest to see what happens and how they interpret their new criteria. There is nothing specific about the cost of not having a particular med on areas of social spending, e.g. through the ill person or a carer not being able to take up paid employment, however maybe benefits to the person and their family covers that.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      Will the new criteria be retained and used once the TPPA is in force I wonder.

      • miravox 6.1.1

        No, they won’t be, I reckon. The TPP will make them redundant. This is what Lab should be focusing on, as well as closely watching how the criteria is interpreted.

        oh – and why the budget was underspent.

        • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.1

          And possibly, not dining with Big Pharma executives, who will have sought assurances from Little that Labour was not planning to exit the TPP for any reason.

  6. Ad 7

    If I ruled the world, I’d merge ACC and Pharmac.
    Throw a couple of billion at it to start with, then require it to pay for itself.

    A whole lot more focus on risk, prevention, vaccination, and all the other good stuff the existing public health system forgets to do.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      You want to merge a massive financial fund with an insurance scheme and a procurement agency.

      What the hell for?

      And how is vaccination going to target the things prematurely killing hundreds of Kiwis a month in the modern day, as opposed to 100 years ago?

  7. Alex 8

    People are getting confused with the woeful anti- cancer medicines which the pharmaceutical companies have produced up till now; and the new anti -cancer medicines which have an entirely different approach by working with the immune system. I think these are truly a revolution in medicine, even though they have been produced by the pharmaceutical companies. I’m all for attacking big pharma, which is of course entirely motivated by profit. We live in a capitalist system. But if they do come up with an effective treatment; this should not be automatically rejected in a knee jerk manner. People here who say pharmac should not fund the new generation drugs even though they are clearly saving lives , on some basis of being against big pharma; are in effect saying that we should keep wasting money on Pharma’s old drugs which simply cause misery and rarely cure anyone. Keytruda is saving lives, and people otherwise dying of melanoma have a right to get it. One person per day dies of melanoma in NZ. Other countries are already funding it, but NZ, with one of the highest melanoma rates in the world, is letting people die .

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