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Public strongly supports review of Pharmac

29 August 2005

Public strongly supports independent review of Pharmac

Almost seven-in-ten adult New Zealanders strongly support an independent review of the Government’s medicines funding agency Pharmac, according to a survey conducted by UMR Insight last month.

Commissioned by Pfizer New Zealand Limited, the survey was released today by its General Manager Mark Crotty. He said the survey of 750 New Zealanders aged 18 years of age or older, showed 68 percent support an independent review, with the balance unsure or against a review.

The research shows the strongest prompted arguments in favour of an independent review of Pharmac are:

· There needs to be better access to new medicines, and

· Doctors should have more input into Pharmac’s decisions.

“Seventy-four percent of people agreed either very strongly or somewhat strongly with these arguments,” Mr Crotty said.

“Fifty percent said New Zealanders have worse access to new medicines than countries like Australia, while only six percent say we have better access and 29 percent say we have the same access”.

“The UMR survey said only 20 percent of people are confident that Pharmac strikes the right balance between meeting healthcare needs and what New Zealand can afford, 28 percent are not confident that it strikes the right balance.

“Thirty-nine percent are neutral on the issue, with 13 percent being unsure.”

Mr Crotty said the UMR survey results show a high level of public disquiet with Pharmac.

“The fact is that the funding regime in New Zealand severely restricts patient access to important medicines in the treatment of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimers, diabetes, and many other illnesses.

“Medicines play an important role in the health system as they can prevent disease or illness, and reduce costs associated with operations and care further down the track.

“If political parties want to get serious about making our health system in New Zealand more efficient, and deliver better results for patients, reviewing the way in which medicines are funded is an urgent priority.

“This poll shows that New Zealanders are aware they are missing out on medicines, and want change.”

*************

Pharmac favourability and access to/ confidence in medicines/ health care

[Lt July 2005]


Methodology

The most recent results in this report are based upon a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 750 New Zealanders 18 years of age and over.

Fieldwork was conducted on the 21st to 25th July 2005 at UMR Research’s national interview facility in Auckland.

The margin of error for sample size of 750 for a 50% figure at the ‘95% confidence level’ is ± 3.6%.

Summary of Key Findings

- There is strong support among the public for an independent review of Pharmac. 68% of people support an independent review, 14% are against a review and 18% are unsure.

- Only 17% of people have a favourable view of Pharmac while 28% have an unfavourable view. However, 25% are neutral in their view and 30% are either unsure or say they don’t know enough to offer an opinion.

- The strongest of the prompted arguments in favour of an independent review of Pharmac are

- There needs to be better access to new medicines
- Doctors should have more input into Pharmac’s decisions

74% of people agreed either very strongly or somewhat strongly with these arguments.

- 50% of people say New Zealanders have worse access to new medicines than countries like Australia. Only 6% of people say New Zealanders have better access and 29% say we have the same access.

- Only 20% of people are confident that Pharmac strikes the right balance between meeting healthcare needs and what New Zealand can afford. 28% are not confident that it strikes the right balance and 39% are neutral on the issue of confidence. 13% of people were unsure.

- 62% of people have a chronic illness or have a close family member or friend who has a chronic illness.

- Of those who have a favourable opinion of Pharmac, the main reasons for holding that opinion are:

- Keeps medicine costs down for most people
- Ensures most people can get most of the best medicines
- Does a good job balancing competing interests

- Of those who have an unfavourable opinion of Pharmac, the main reasons for holding that opinion are:

- Won’t fund or too slow to fund new medicines or some medicines
- Too focused on saving money
- Subsidy of essential medicines too low or lack of choice

- A review of the supplementary tables and demographic cross-tabulations shows:

- Significant differences across gender, age and income with respect to support for an independent review of Pharmac. 60% of males support a review compared with 75% of females.

- 59% of those under 30 years support a review compared with 70% of those aged 45-59 and 71% f those aged over 60.

- 59% of those on incomes over $70,000 support a review compared with 77% of those on incomes in the $40,001-50,000 range and 70% of those on incomes less than $15,000.

- Even among those with a favourable opinion of Pharmac, 48% support a review compared with 45% who do not. Of those with an unfavourable review, 89% support a review compared with 6% who do not.

- 71% of those with a chronic illness or who have a close family member or close friend with a chronic illness support a review compare with 63% who do not fall into that category.

- Generally speaking those who support a review, believe New Zealand has worse access to new medicines than countries like Australia, do not have confidence in Pharmac to make the right balance between healthcare needs and what New Zealand can afford, have some personal or close experience of chronic illnesses and have markedly more unfavourable views of Pharmac than others.

(i) Favourability

PHARMAC FAVOURABILITY RATING

Using a 1 to 5 scale where 1 means very favourable and 5 means very unfavourable, can you tell me what your opinion is of Pharmac, the government agency which decides which medicines in New Zealand are subsidised and how much the subsidy will be. If you do not know enough about Pharmac or are unsure please just say so.

Lt JUL 2005
%
1 – Very favourable 4
2 13
TOTAL FAVOURABLE 17
3 25
4 16
5 – Very unfavourable 12
TOTAL UNFAVOURABLE 28
Unsure/ Do not know enough 30

(ii) Reasons for favourability rating


REASONS FOR FAVOURABLE OPINION OF PHARMAC

What are your reasons for having a favourable opinion of Pharmac?

Lt JUL 2005
%
Keeps medicine costs down for most people 38.0
Ensures most people can get most of the best medicines 28.6
Does a good job balancing competing interests 21.7
Has the expertise to make the best decisions 11.5
Is a tough negotiator against big pharmaceutical companies 8.0
Not their fault – the Government is to blame/ their budget is too limited 5.5
Have had positive dealings 3.2
They do a lot of research 2.7
Haven’t heard anything bad 1.3
Unsure 5.7

Base: 17% of respondents, those who had a favourable opinion of Pharmac (1 + 2 on the 5-point scale), n=122.
Due to multiple responses this question does not add to 100%.

REASONS FOR UNFAVOURABLE OPINION OF PHARMAC

What are your reasons for having an unfavourable opinion of Pharmac?

Lt JUL 2005
%
Won't fund/ too slow to fund new medicines/ some medicines 45.3
Too focused on saving money 29.7
Subsidy of essential drugs too low/ medication too expensive/lack of choice 11.9
Makes too many mistakes e.g. meningococcal vaccine, flu vaccine 7.4
Medicines they buy are of poor quality/ cheaper 6.8
Drives drug company research away from New Zealand 5.4
Have changed my medication / changed my child’s medication 4.4
Bureaucratic 3.2
Monopoly 3.0
Not well organised 2.6
They have too much control 2.0
Don’t like the research they do/ drug trials/ use people like guinea pigs 2.0
Don’t look after elderly 1.4
Risk peoples lives / cost peoples lives 1.1
Encourage unnecessary drug use / dependence 0.7
Bad press 0.7
Lack of consultation with doctors 0.5
Unsure 4.6

Base: 28% of respondents, those who had a unfavourable opinion of Pharmac (4 + 5 on the 5-point scale), n=213.
Due to multiple responses this question does not add to 100%.

(iii) Independent review

INDEPENDENT REVIEW

Do you think that there should be an independent review of Pharmac?

Lt JUL 2005
%
Yes 68
No 14
Unsure 18
TOTAL 100

ARGUMENTS FOR CONDUCTING AN INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF PHARMAC

On a 1 to 5 scale where 1 means strongly agree and 5 means strongly disagree how strongly do you agree or disagree with the following arguments for conducting an independent review of Pharmac?

21 – 25 July Omnibus
%
1,
Strongly agree 2 TOTAL
1+ 2 3 4 5,
Strongly disagree TOTAL
4 + 5 Unsure
There needs to be better access to new medicines 45 29 74 15 4 2 6 5
Doctors should have more input into Pharmac’s decisions 40 34 74 13 3 3 6 7
New Zealand has less access to new medicines than countries like Australia 25 25 50 19 10 5 15 16
Pharmac is too focused on keeping costs down 27 22 49 21 10 6 16 14
New Zealand’s spending on medicines as a percentage of public health expenditure has fallen behind other developed countries in the past decade 20 25 45 22 6 4 10 23


(iv) Medicines and healthcare

NEW MEDICINES

Thinking about new medicines do you think New Zealanders generally have better access, the same or worse access to new medicines than countries like Australia?

Lt JUL 2005
%
Better access 6
The same access 29
Worse access 50
Unsure 15
TOTAL 100

BALANCE BETWEEN HEALTHCARE NEEDS AND AFFORDABILITY

On a 1 to 5 scale where 1 means very confident and 5 means not at all confident how confident are you that Pharmac strikes the right balance between meeting healthcare needs and what New Zealand can afford?

Lt JUL 2005
%
1 – Very confident 4
2 16
TOTAL CONFIDENT 20
3 39
4 18
5 – Not confident at all 10
TOTAL NOT CONFIDENT 28
Unsure 13
TOTAL 100


REGULAR PRESCRIPTION MEDICINE FOR CHRONIC ILLNESS

Do you or a close family member or friend have a chronic illness which means taking a regular prescription medicine?

Lt JUL 2005
%
Yes 62
No 38
Unsure -
TOTAL 100

ENDS


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