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Medicines Strategy promising but problematic

MEDIA RELEASE: December 13, 2006

Medicines Strategy promising but problematic, says ATM

The Government’s new draft Medicines Strategy document is being welcomed by the Access To Medicines (ATM) Coalition, but there are concerns that the overall strategy could be undermined by inadequate direction given to key decision makers – like PHARMAC and district health boards.

ATM says that leaving PHARMAC to its own devices in conducting a separate review of high-cost therapies is one of the more problematic elements of the document.

“Their brief and their focus has always been too narrow,” says ATM spokesman Eamonn Smythe. “We’re concerned the review will be conducted with a narrow budget management mind-set unless there are clear directions to PHARMAC to follow the wider principles-based approach the rest of the strategy encourages.”

While the strategy gives broad support to a more principles-based approach to medicine funding, ATM notes that when DHBs and PHARMAC give their advice to the Minister on the annual budget for pharmaceuticals, “value for money” and “affordability” are the only principles listed for consideration.

“Why are ethics and community values excluded?” asks Eamonn Smythe. “This is a seriously inadequate approach to setting the PHARMAC budget, and would indicate no significant change to the present system unless other principles are also factored in – like the DHBs current objectives of reducing health outcome disparities, involving communities in the decision making process, and upholding ethical and other standards.”

ATM says that, otherwise, the draft Medicines Strategy is a promising beginning, and it looks forward to continuing its involvement in the public consultation process over the next few months.

“We’re particularly pleased that ‘equity’ has been stated as a key principle in the strategy,” says Eamonn Smythe. “This introduces ethics into the decision-making process, something ATM has argued for as it is conspicuously absent from present criteria. Until now it has been almost entirely about budget management.”


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