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Helen, Peter, Joel and the Pharmac Review


United Future leader, Hon Peter Dunne has released the following background and timeline regarding Helen Clark, Dr Peter Davis, Dr Joel Lexchin and the independent review of PHARMAC’s operating procedures.

Early in 2000 the Government’s drug-buying agency, PHARMAC, decided to review its operating procedures and policies following criticism from the Researched Medicines Industry. In March 2000, the Minister of Health decided the review should be carried out independently from PHARMAC. Two possible independent reviewers were identified – former Appeal Court Judge Sir Ian McKay, and former Securities Commission chair, Peter McKenzie.

Dr Joel Lexchin is a Canadian physician with a long record of criticism of the pharmaceutical industry in New Zealand and elsewhere. He is a friend and colleague of the Prime Minister’s husband, Dr Peter Davis. Indeed, in 1992 Dr Davis edited a book titled, For Health or Profit, Medicine, the Pharmaceutical Industry and the State in New Zealand. In the foreword, he credits Dr Lexchin with the idea for producing the book. One of the contributors to the book is the then former Health Minister, Helen Clark.

The following timeline shows how the so-called independent review of PHARMAC was hijacked to ensure it was carried out by Dr Lexchin, a person whose background made him anything but independent, and who, by his own acknowledgement, had clear conflicts of interest and loyalty. It also shows the clear hand of the Prime Minister and her husband to make sure the review was carried by someone trustworthy, who could be relied on to produce acceptable conclusions.

14 March 2000 Health Funding Authority (HFA) writes to Annette King proposing either Peter McKenzie or Sir Ian McKay as reviewer

17 March 2000 Lloyd Falck (Annette King’s senior advisor) e-mails HFA that McKay has agreed to carry out review, subject to negotiating suitable contract

5 April 2000 HFA writes to McKay to negotiate possible contract to carry out review

17 May 2000 Researched Medicines Industry (RMI) writes to PHARMAC to inquire what progress on establishing review

25 May 2000 HFA advises King that McKay not available – she will have to come up with someone else

30 May 2000 HFA writes to McKenzie to explore possible review contract

31 May 2000 HFA forwards McKenzie’s cv to Lloyd Falck

13 June 2000 Dr Peter Davis e-mails Alec McLean (PM’s Principal Private Secretary) with Lexchin’s cv – asks that it be forwarded to King via Lloyd Falck, following his phone conversation with her over weekend

20 June 2000 Peter Davis e-mails Alec McLean seeking progress on Lexchin appointment – is there “genuine movement”?

23 June 2000 Syd Bradley (Chair of the HFA) e-mails Lexchin to thank him for expression of interest

24 June 2000 Lexchin advises Bradley by e-mail he is a friend of Peter Davis and knows Helen Clark. Also points he is a long standing critic of the pharmaceutical industry, which may be a source of conflict.

26 June 2000 HFA advises McKay & McKenzie the review has a new focus and a different reviewer has been appointed

Lexchin advised by phone by Bradley he has been appointed

27 June 2000 Lexchin e-mails Bradley to confirm appointment and notes Bradley’s assurance there is “no problem with me knowing Helen Clarke (sic) and Peter Davis” and that HFA would deal with any opposition

14 July 2000 HFA announces Lexchin appointment

20 July 2000 RMI statement criticising Lexchin appointment – says King promised review by High Court Judge

28 July 2000 Prime Minister denies to Evening Post ever meeting Lexchin – says appointment was made by King

31 July 2000 e-mail to Dunne from constituent pharmacist pointing out Clark’s involvement in book edited by Lexchin at suggestion of Peter Davis

4 August 2000 King replies to Dunne’s Written Parliamentary Questions:
No Ministers approved Lexchin’s appointment or terms of reference (No 14559)
Review an operational matter the responsibility of HFA (No 14525)
Lexchin’s appointment responsibility of HFA (No 14524)
Denies ever telling RMI a Judge would do review (No 14522)
Lexchin was nominated by HFA not her (No 14521)
Has never met Lexchin (No 14519)

PM answers Dunne’s Written Parliamentary Questions:
No officials of her Department involved in Lexchin appointment (No 14518)
No role in Lexchin appointment decision (No 14515

18 September 2000 PM writes to Dunne denying any role in Lexchin appointment – made by HFA (note contradiction with Evening Post comment of 28 July 2000)

9 October 2000 King replies to Dunne’s Written Parliamentary Questions:
Despite HFA letter of 25 May 2000, appointment its responsibility not hers – although they kept her informed (Nos 17640, 17641)

16 October 2000 King replies to Dunne’s Written Parliamentary Questions:
Repeats that answer to 17640 not a conflict (Nos 18352, 18353)

RMI advises Dunne that cost of Caygill/Lexchin review exceeds cost of McKay

13 December 2000 King writes to Dunne that neither Cabinet, Cabinet Committees or her gave any direction to HFA regarding review – although there were “informal discussions”

21 December 2000 PM writes to Dunne that there is no correspondence recommending Lexchin


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