Govt announces review into Pharmac
A panel of experts has been appointed to review drug-buying agency Pharmac, it will consider equity of access and the timelines and transparency of decision making.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the election promise to conduct an independent review into the agency.
“Broadly, the Pharmac model works well, and gives New Zealanders access to the medicines and products they need to live healthy lives, but we have heard people’s concerns about the model, and we believe there is scope for improving it,” says Ardern.
“Pharmac is a model that’s critically important to the health sector, and viewed as world-leading, but let’s make it better if we can.”
Health Minister Andrew Little says concerns raised about the agency include access to new medicines, timeliness of decision making, and the application of criteria that inform Pharmac’s prioritisation and funding decisions and the review will look at these matters.
“In addition there have been concerns about the safety of substituting medicines due to cost and availability, and access to products that are funded in other countries but not here in New Zealand,” says Little.
“This review is about making a good system better and more responsive to key challenges facing our health system,” says Ardern.
Little, says “It is vitally important that the public have trust and confidence in the Pharmac model, including the way it considers new medicines, identifies and addresses safety concerns and the way it makes its decisions”.
“In scope will be how Pharmac uses its budget to achieve the best possible outcomes. Out of scope will be the fixed nature of the budget and the total amount allocated to pharmaceuticals as these quite rightly are for the Government of the day to determine.”
The independent panel will be chaired by consumer advocate Sue Chetwin and its members will be corporate governance and public law consultant Frank McLaughlin, health economist and governance expert Heather Simpson, pharmacist prescriber Leanne Te Karu, Otago University’s Department of Preventative and Social Medicine Associate Professor Sue Crengle and disability advocate Dr Tristram Ingham.
They have been tasked with assessing Pharmac's performance and whether its objectives need to be changed.
The review will consider the time taken for treatments to be assessed and then funded, as well as how transparent those decision-making processes are. It will also look at equity including access to medicines and devices for Māori and Pacific peoples.
The review is intended to run until the end of the year with an interim report in August and a final report in December.
“I expect that the review committee will decide its own consultation process but that it will include at a minimum the appropriate input from consumers, Maori, Pacific peoples, clinicians and industry,” says Little.