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Dunne: Time for Govt to deal to Pharmac

Wednesday, 8 June 2005

Dunne: Time for Govt to deal to Pharmac

The Government needs to work out how much longer it will stand by as Pharmac flip-flops on medicines that keep many New Zealanders alive and healthy, United Future leader Peter Dunne said today.

Speaking after Pharmac backtracked this morning on subsidising Ventolin asthma inhalers after previously announcing it would only subsidise Salamol, he called for Pharmac to be brought to account.

"This mob acts in haste and repents at leisure - but invariably at the expense of ill New Zealanders who don't need these cowboys playing games
with their medication," Mr Dunne said.

"You're left asking 'what next?'" he said, pointing to recent debacles with cholesterol and blood pressure medications.

"Each one of these situations has impacted on the lives and well-being of many New Zealanders. At best, they have been mucked around, at worst their health has been compromised and their stress levels will have gone through the roof.

"The situation is reaching crisis proportions and sadly it will be a crisis 12 years in the making. In 1993 the Government launched Pharmac as New Zealand's drug-buying agency as a mechanism to curtail the growing level of spending on pharmaceuticals that threatened to blow the health budget.

"However, after more than a decade of operating under a very narrow cost-cutting mandate, Pharmac has developed a culture of price-squeezing zealotry, employing techniques such as an insistence on sole-supply contracts, cheaper generic alternatives and reference pricing to keep New Zealand's medicines expenditure to a minimum. "We all accept that there can't be unlimited pharmaceutical spending, but as more and more New Zealanders become adversely affected by Pharmac's restrictive policies, it is clear the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of cost-cutting," Mr Dunne said.

ENDS

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