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Pfizer report reveals drug company agenda

Pfizer report reveals drug company agenda

A report issued today reveals the drug industry wants patients to pay more for their drugs, and for services such as elective surgery to be cut.

The Pfizer Report wants this so that the drug industry can double its income from the public purse, PHARMAC chief executive Wayne McNee says. And in another development today, the pharmaceutical industry lobby group the RMI is calling for a tripling of the pharmaceutical budget, an increase of more than $1 billion per year.

On the way to recommending a comprehensive review of New Zealand’s drug funding policies, the report advocates:

Doubling the pharmaceutical budget by cutting other health services (such as coronary bypass surgery) (p31)

increasing user-pays (patient co-payments) as has occurred in Australia (p32)

using the same tools for managing spending but to think of others as well. (p32)

Wayne McNee says: “The only beneficiaries of this shift would be the drug companies and their shareholders. There would be a dramatic increase in spending, with little likely improvement in health outcomes. In addition, patients would have to pay more for their medicines, which would mean a significant number of people would probably choose not to pick up their prescriptions.”

“This contrasts with the current situation, where we have an increase in medicine access while expenditure is controlled, and the list of subsidised drugs continues to grow. The volume of prescriptions and the mix of new medicines available continues to grow, and patient co-payments have been reduced.”

“It is nonsense to argue that increasing spending automatically equals improving health outcomes. For example, the United States has the highest drug prices in the world, yet New Zealanders have a greater life expectancy (78.6 years vs 77.7). And in Australia, spending on asthma medicines is higher than New Zealand, yet hospitalisation rates for asthma are nearly 50 percent higher than in New Zealand.”

New Zealand taxpayers fund a high proportion of the drugs sold in New Zealand, compared to other countries. Nearly 80 percent of all drugs sold in New Zealand are publicly funded, compared with 74 percent in Germany, 37 percent in Canada and 19 percent in the United States.

There is increasing international interest in the PHARMAC model, particularly the use of tendering. Interest has come from Belgium and Canada, while tendering is extensively used by health management organisations (private health insurers) in the United States.

Wayne McNee also points out a number of glaring errors in the report. These include wrongly asserting that any unspent pharmaceutical budget is paid back to DHBs; stating that the antidepressant paroxetine is not subsidized (it has been funded since 1993); and the claim that PTAC recommendations are not able to be reviewed by the courts.

“This expensive report simply confirms what we already know – that New Zealand gets some of the best value in the world from the available pharmaceutical budget.”


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