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Medicines NZ falls short of complete overhaul

Medicines New Zealand falls short of complete overhaul

The Government’s new medicines strategy Medicines New Zealand, unveiled today, provides room for more consultation with stakeholders, but falls short of the complete system overhaul that is required, says the Access To Medicines Coalition (ATM).

Whilst the Government acknowledges that PHARMAC’s structure and accountability arrangements attracted “considerable comment” during the consultation process, there will be no change to the existing medicines funding structure.

“PHARMAC is currently in charge of assessing both whether a medicine is clinically effective and cost effective, a situation which we feel is inappropriate,” says ATM spokesperson Eamonn Smythe. “Greater power needs to be given to the Pharmaceutical and Therapeutics Advisory Committee (PTAC), which currently provides clinical advice to PHARMAC.”

ATM is disappointed that no extra funding for medicines is being called for, and that increased access to high cost or innovative new medicines will not result from Medicines New Zealand.

“The amount of money provided for community-based pharmaceuticals is already inadequate, and we are underperforming by comparison with Australia and other Western countries,” Smythe says. “This strategy, with its references to better ‘prioritising’ of health spending, suggests that we will continue to rob Peter to pay Paul.

ATM is pleased that the medicines stategy acknowledges that the system needs to recognise that individuals may vary from population norms when it comes to medicine.

“However, we are still concerned that overall, Medicines New Zealand is more concerned with cost utility than greater access,” Smythe says. “It allows for greater consultation between PHARMAC, consumers and stakeholders, but with no changes being made to PHARMAC’s funding criteria it remains to be seen how effective these consultations will be.”

“We look forward to seeing how this progresses in the coming year, and to the review of Medicines New Zealand’s effectiveness which will be conducted in December 2008.”

ATM combines the voices of 26 non-government organizations advocating for increased access to medicines in New Zealand. Members of the coalition are all disease-specific groups that provide support, information/education, health promotion or clinical services to their constituent groups.

ENDS

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