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Internationally- Respected Medical Specialist Slams Pharmac, Urges PM To Investigate

In a blistering open letter to Prime Minister Ardern, world renowned expert in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, Professor Richard Gearry, blasts Pharmac for “gross obfuscation” around their refusal to fund a desperately needed medication for people with these diseases. He calls their decision “inhumane” and “indefensible”.

After attempts to meet with Health Minister Chris Hipkins have been repeatedly declined, he is now appealing to the Prime Minister to urgently investigate the agency’s “deeply flawed decision-making processes”.

Professor Gearry’s letter has unprecedented support from the medical community, listing personal endorsements from 105 of the country’s most respected gastroenterologists, surgeons and other medical professionals who work with Crohn’s and colitis patients.

Professor Gearry who is Head of the Department of Medicine at University of Otago, Christchurch, is an internationally recognised educator, clinician, and the author of 260 articles published in medical journals. He is on the Faculty of the World Gastroenterology Organisation IBD Guidelines Group and Chair of the International Organisation for the Study of IBD Globalization Cluster.

Citing the example of a recent meeting with Pharmac to discuss their decision, after a cost-benefit analysis, not to fund critically-needed medications to treat advanced Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, Professor Gearry said he was “astounded by Pharmac’s lack of knowledge on the current direct health costs of Crohn’s and colitis patients failing conventional treatments, and to learn that Pharmac does not actually have the data on current treatment costs.

A petition to fund ustekinumab, launched by Crohn’s and Colitis NZ Charitable Trust in partnership with the New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology and the IBD Nurses Group of the NZNA, has garnered close to 30,000 signatures in less than a month. The drug is a mainstream treatment funded throughout the Western world. 38 other western countries fund the medication, including Australia, which has done so since 2015

Without this medication, New Zealanders who fail to respond to the 15-year-old medications that are available in this country face unnecessary multiple hospitalisations and irreversible surgeries to remove sections of the bowel, often culminating in permanent stoma bags.

Professor Gearry calls on the Prime Minister, to investigate this decision and provide “justice, fairness and compassion to New Zealanders suffering unnecessarily with this terrible disease.”

Read the full letter


Visit the petition site at

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